Review Summary: A little too comfortable with its modesty, Grandfeathered is beautiful, but deserves some more transforming.
It's difficult to be put off by a sound as soft, dreamy and forgiving as Pinkshinyultrablast's, especially at first glance. Their mixture of bouncy, strategically placed synth lines, crunchy, swelling guitars and wispy, angelic vocals is a tried-and-true formula, this time arranged in a slightly more modern and bubbly fashion. It's evident that the band has a very clear idea of what they're trying to do here; the cutesy-surreal album cover and the innocent, and quite frankly, wonderful song titles ("Glow Vastly," "Kiddy Pool Dreams") all point to a very specific package. And the band does deliver for the most part, finding themselves in numerous moments of refreshingly unpretentious beauty through the album's duration. But one can't help but think that this band, and this music, deserves more than a tried-and-true formula. Grandfeathered
sure is pretty enough, so why not make it detailed enough?
It's clear from the get-go that this album is something of an improvement upon the band's debut, Everything Else Matters.
The band wisely carried over their strong suits, notably the ever-present and remarkably catchy bass lines that never fail to give the guitar noise a sense of direction. And whereas the songs on the debut often found themselves locked in a stationary haze, a nice amount of new dynamics have been injected into the songs here. This is most evident in "I Catch You Napping," which, incidentally, might be the best song on the album. It opens in familiar shoegaze fashion, complete with an adorable descending synth melody. Then the guitar haze pulls away for the verses, save for some accented twinkles, before it slowly inches its way back, in time for the truly transcendent chorus. It's an undeniably memorable track, appearing to somewhat define Grandfeathered,
even while it's only the third song on the album. Opener "Initial" stands out as well though, but in a different way, as it's the album's only song that leans closer to electro-dream pop than shoegaze. This was probably a deliberate choice, but one can't help but wonder how beautifully the album would transform with just a little more of this kind of variation.
The album washes along, slightly entrancing you at most junctures along the way. But it's never quite psychedelia, and though the songs' structures are tight and kept very well track of, the element that most exemplifies this fact is the vocals, always there to remind you where the verses and choruses are. They're airy, female coos that are so airy they begin to sound distant, though they're really quite present in the mix. And they're beautiful, for sure, practically designed so. But they remain in the same tone for the entire album. The melodies are definitely more memorable than on the debut, by creating more obvious, and much catchier patterns with their notes, rather than just cooing ripples into the pool. But again, they end up as one of the things keeping the album on a regrettably stationary level. The band insists on keeping the vocals always present, but for some reason, sees no need to alter their sound according to each song. They never become more than what they first appear as, and I can't help but be slightly disappointed by that.
And yet, Grandfeathered
never reaches for what it can't grasp, and I suppose that's what keeps it so endearing. It's calming and subtly hypnotic within the modest standards it creates for itself. Though never completely transformative, it has an amiable, welcoming attitude that may just be welcoming enough to keep you coming back. Pinkshinyultrablast has their attitude and their aesthetic already down to a tee, which is impressive for how young a band they are. But their worlds deserve more detail; a landscape more striking, more finished. And Grandfeathered
is all the evidence we need that they're so very capable of that creation. Thanks for the hope, guys. I shall keep catching you napping until then.