Review Summary: The Black Angels enter the psychedelic pop realm.
Functioning as a 4-piece now, the neo-psychedelic rock act The Black Angels have dropped their 4th effort, aptly titled Indigo Meadow
. Since the band have already had three rather strong records, expectations were quite high for Indigo Meadow
, but fortunately, they deliver yet another enjoyable and interesting effort.
For those unaccustomed to these guys, The Black Angels take their cues mainly from 60's psychedelia such as The Doors or The 13th Floor Elevator. Also, pastiche acts like The Brian Jonestown Massacre, early Dandy Warhols, with a bit of shoegaze in the vein of The Jesus And Mary Chain and early 2000s Black Rebel Motorcycle Club have had an important role in shaping the band's sound. However, in contrast to their peers, The Black Angels haven't ventured much outside the comfort zone, opting to improve the same formula with each album. As a result, Indigo Meadow
revolves around the same ideas, but it's a more dynamic, less abrasive offering compared with the likes of Passover
or even its' predecessor, Phosphene Dream
. Even if the production is more polished than usual, the tracks themselves are less repetitive, being more pop-oriented. Still, none of the band's charm is lost, in fact Indigo Meadow acts like one of their most consistent albums. They toy around with all the tricks learned over the course of a decade, contriving them into short, powerful numbers. No matter how much one likes them or not, it's hard not to admit The Black Angels know how to create catchy hooks with cool, dark undertones. The best example here is first single "Don't Play With Guns", that takes a rather superficial stab at the American gun culture and how easy people can go out of control, killing others. The foundation of the song is based on a dense, bass-heavy rhythm and an infectious vocal delivery courtesy of Alex Maas, who gives Indigo Meadow a whole new dimension with his playful, nasal voice.
Although not as dark and brooding as the rest, Indigo Meadow
features a lot of memorable moments, fairly increasing its' replay value. Some of the best songs here are the country blues rocker "Love Me Forever", with a simple yet poignant chorus sung on a firm tone repeating "Love me forever/Love me or never" over a cool, sharp guitar riff. Also, at opposite ends are "Holland" and "You're Mine", the former being an eerie, mid-tempo Brian Jonestown Massacre reminiscing psychedelic tune. The hypnotic organ lead and reverbed guitar create a shady atmosphere, feeling like the soundtrack to a late night walk in the woods. "You're Mine", however, is one of Black Angels' sunniest and poppiest tunes ever recorded. The song finds a love-absorbed Alex Maas sharing his feelings towards his girl. There are traces of psychedelia present through the background synths and high pitched guitar solos towards the end, but again the flawless vocal delivery and groovy rhythm inevitably get stuck in the listener's head. Some fans might find it too positive in contrast with the band's usual stark output, yet within Indigo Meadow
's context this unexpected garage pop rock track thingy really finds its' place. Other highlights include the marching, tremolo-laden "Broken Soldier" which echoes The Doors and the hectic, LSD-induced "I Hear Colors (Chromaesthesia)" will please the older fans.
In the end, Indigo Meadow
is a really cool, fun record that only strengthens The Black Angels' position in their psychedelic rock pastiche niche. Some fans might be turned off by the pop leanings, but there's something for everyone here and the filler amount is kept to a minimum. Even so, like most of 60's pastiche, it feels familiar at times and doesn't cover much new ground. While other similar bands popped outside the bubble with various results, The Black Angels always stayed put and reworked the same ideas. Thankfully, the pop-tinged material found on Indigo Meadow
offers diversity within their catalog, since they've been churning noisy, reverbed soaked trips for three albums now. Everyone should keep an eye on The Black Angels from now on, because they are slowly expanding and so far it sounds great.