One interesting thing i experience as a music writer is that i get to see bands evolve. Well, i suppose that is really true of anyone who listens to music -- you like a band and follow them and get to see how they change. But as a music writer, bands send me their releases, so i kind of stay on top of such evolutions. When you are a casual listener, it is easy to miss a particular release in the sheer mass of music that floods the internet, but i have the releases called to my attention.
Case in point is See Through Dresses. At the end of 2015, i reviewed the debut EP by this Omaha band. It was a promising start, a short burst of 1990s style distorted power pop with catchy tunes.
Since then the band has grown quite nicely. Same lineup of singer / guitarist / songwriters Sara Bertuldo and Mather Carroll backed up with bassist Alex Kirts and drummer Nate Van Fleet. But these four have grown as musicians. The simple jangly distorted pop of the End of Days has morphed and stretched out in dreampoppish new wave. I said that the EP was very 1990s, well this LP is very 1980s.
That might be a bad thing, depending on your impression of The Dayglo and Shoulder Pads Decade, but i grew up in that time and the synthpop that See Through Dresses play here really hits a sweet spot between nostalgia and newness for me. Sure, this sounds like the 1980s, but the production is crisp and sometimes a hint of modern electro feel seeps through. I am impressed, and like what the band are doing.
They start off the album with a slow, synth heavy, distorted track called Diamonds. The whole song moves slowly, buried under echo, with chiming keyboards in the foreground. Carroll's voice cuts through, also echoed and singing slowly. The overall effect is like a time machine back to the 1980s. I close my eyes to listen, and when i open them, i have to look around to make sure that i have not been transported back to the 1980s, back to my old room at my parent's house.
After setting the scene and tone in the opener, See Through Dresses give us a bright 80s pop tune in Radiant Boy. The echo is no longer dripping off the instruments, which are instead clear and chiming. Carroll's voice is a little understated and slightly buried under guitars that chime on verses and whirr on the choruses. Another wonderful 80s tune.
Bertuldo takes the vocal lead for the third song, Pretty Police a song that jangles and chimes along, with nice roaring choruses. The jangly guitars echo back to their previous EP, but the bright shiny pop that it is wrapped in seems very fresh. Another really fun song.
Light In August is a slower tune, the guitar chiming with the voice layered underneath it, and the drums a nervous tapping. Something about the drums and the buried voice gives this tune an edgy or tense feeling. In the middle some (synth?) strings come in, adding a whining layer that reminds me of My Bloody Valentine. Not like they bury their pop under feedback though: it's just a slight MBV-ish whirring drone.
On Herbivore keyboards ahh and guitars chime in layers, as Bertuldo sings a little buried in the mix.
On Catacombs See Through Dresses earn a frowny face from me, because there is an oddly echoing sound that at first listen makes me think that there is a piece of dust on the needle of the turntable. But this is a virtual promo, so the layer of fuzz is on purpose. Okay... Bertuldo sings lightly here, her voice delicate as scattered guitar and tapped drums clatter about. In the middle, the guitar goes into overdrive, distortion out of nowhere overpowering the entire song.
See Through Dresses get their Cure on for Violet. It starts with an intense synth hit, then guitars and drums chug in, Carroll's voice echoed, the bass driving the whole thing along. It is Carroll's voice, which is mopier here then usual, that reminds me, just slightly, of Robert Smith. The keyboards are really nice here as well.
Shelley is a slower-paced song with bright sparkling keyboard sounds and chugging guitar. Carroll sings breathlessly while Bertuldo's voice is a faint echo. Lucy's Arm is more of a rocker, fastly strummed verses and then a little distorted on the choruses. It moves nicely.
And finally we reach the title track, which cruises along as a little ballad with Carroll singing lightly, and then it just explodes with everyone hammering at their instruments, bringing the record to a loud, noisy conclusion.
It is a very satisfying record, and i am amazed at how much this band has improved. The work that they are doing here is a lot more complex and deep that than the music on the previous EP. What a fun record, and i am thankful their promo company has kept me abreast of the band's growth.