I had a moment a few weeks back, when 2013 felt like 1991. I think a lot of people had similar moments, but while there’s may have had to do with the arrival of the first new My Bloody valentine album in over 20 years, mine had to do with the arrival of the first ever Beliefs album.
That’s not to say that the self-titled debut of Josh Korody and Jesse Crowe is a throwback, retro-sounding record (which it very well might be), but that the experience of listening to this record brings me back to the heady excitement I felt when I first discovered bands like Ride, Catherine Wheel, and the (criminally) forgotten Moose.
Anything with ringing guitars, hazy production, and breathy, whispered vocals is going to be pegged with that hideous s-word sub-genre description, and it’s going to take all the effort in the word to avoid that word in this review, but Beliefs deserve as much: it would be unfair to saddle such a fresh-faced and exhilarating band with such a burdensome label so early on.
Especially when a song like “Strangers” has so many intricacies and dynamic changes to it. There’s more debt owed to Siouxsie Sioux then Kevin Shields on that track in particular. It’s that punk rock spirit of going for broke, holding nothing back, that makes Beliefs a record grounded firmly in the now. If they’re going to write a catchy hook (“Catch My Breath”), then Korody and Crowe are going to make sure the damn thing catches you by the corner of your mouth and makes you beg for mercy, or depending on your predilection, beg for more. Instead of just singing you a lullaby, they’re going to make sure you fall into a deeply suggestive and controlling hypnotic trance (“Dead Water”). If they’re going to close the album on a high note, they’re going to make sure that it’s the most intense, aurally satisfying seven and a half minutes you’ll hear all year (“Gallows Bird”).
Beliefs is a guitar album, but not exclusively electric. Acoustics are used economically throughout to give these sonic skyscrapers some human colour and feeling. There’s also a sense of the human condition in the way some of the songs just seem to collapse into themselves at the end, as if they don’t easily fit into a formula where chorus plus verse multiplied by two equals “pop hit”. Things don’t have to be (nor are they ever) so neat and tidy. Not so much unfinished as unresolved, Beliefs is chock full of possibilities, endless combinations.
So, last paragraph and no sign of that pesky s-word. And really, who needs it anyway? One listen to “She Comes Alive” and you’ll know that Beliefs are making music to hold your head up high to/for. Who would want to stare at the floor when there’s so much beauty swirling overhead, anyway?
Beliefs is available now on Hand Drawn Dracula.