Review Summary: "No, not your BLOUSE! Your HOUSE!"
Anyone who’s ever played a live set of music in front of others can attest that it’s always a bright idea to open the show with one of your best tunes. Amber Bain did not get the memo. “Spot Dog”, the opening vinyl chloride railway disaster of her sophomore full-length In The End It Always Does
, had me bracing for the bleak possibility that 4 of my last 5 reviews would have to be negative. It’s not a song so much as it is a collection of everything that’s annoying about George Daniel’s production style, aimlessly meandering through forgettable melodies and unwise use of dissonance to dramatically lower my expectations. Thankfully, the eleven tracks that follow are far superior to this monstrosity, albeit inconsistent in quality. At its best, In The End It Always Does
maintains the contagious forward motion alluded to by its dogshi
t album art with banger after addictive banger, while its missteps lapse into negative feedback loops of boredom and bland songwriting structures.
Bain rebounds in the blink of an eye after the horrendous “Spot Dog”, offering up two of her best tracks to date with the bouncy “Touching Yourself” and previously released single “Sad to Breathe”. The latter is admittedly hampered by a hamfisted intro with some bizarre chord changes, but it recovers upon the introduction of its infectious drum groove and harmonized lead lines. “Touching Yourself” is a triumph from start to finish (feel free to quote me on that), subtly incorporating some metric sophistication underneath its slinky guitar riff and the most devilish earworm of a hook that Bain has to offer on the album. Similar praises can be heaped onto lead single “Boyhood”, a subdued number that melds the best aspects of “Touching Yourself” and “Sad to Breathe” with breezy keys and a gorgeous vocal performance. “Sunshine Baby” succeeds using the same playbook, slowing down the tempo and ascending sky high with its layered vocals and heart-stopping refrain. While I’d argue that the album is at its peak on its most energetic cuts, “Boyhood” and “Sunshine Baby” prove that Bain can still keep listeners transfixed with her more ambient stylings. This is further cemented by album midpoint “Indexical reminder of a morning well spent,” which captivated me with its surrounding reverb and relaxed melodic disposition.
At times, the record becomes a bit too
relaxed, to the point of feeling weightless and making no impact on the listener. “Over There” is exactly where I want you to toss this unequivocally mid piece of songwriting, a slow as molasses synth ballad that kind of sounds like it’s from a “Dirty Hit Does Yacht Rock” compilation. The easy listening allegations continue to pile up with “Morning Pages”, whose highlight is a MUNA feature that is barely distinguishable from Bain’s vocal and didn’t even occur to me until I checked the song’s Genius page.
But the easy listening tracks pale in comparison to the bangers on this album, right YoYo? I don’t want easy listening, I like my listening ROCK HARD
Well, If you read my Valley review, you know that I am currently on a quest to abolish the Alvin and the Chipmunks vocal preset from every recording studio on Earth, which is why “Friends” needs to be cast into the fire and destroyed by Isildur at once. Picture “Touching Yourself” mixed with the ill-advised yacht rock sensibilities of “Over There” and an obnoxious amount of vocal chop, and you have yourself another train wreck of a track. Closer “One for sorrow, two for joni jones” isn’t quite a train wreck, but it also isn’t quite anything at all besides Bain absentmindedly plinking a few chords on the piano as the album winds to a disappointing close.
In The End It Always Does
is a mixed bag, but I wouldn’t describe it as a minefield; it’s more like a diamond mine and a minefield are engaged in a land dispute. Amber Bain’s ethereal vocals and meticulously crafted melodies make this an album that I certainly recommend checking out, if only for the allure of the stronger tracks that constitute a little over half of the record. If you can stomach the thought of walking over the eggshells of a The 1975-Steely Dan collab every fourth song or so to get to those gems, then this is the album for you. Bain demonstrates her songwriting and performing talent in spades throughout her new album’s runtime, and I hope we’ll get to see her editing talent emerge on future creative pursuits, because a consistently great record from her would be one of my favorites of this year.