Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever rightfully attracted a lot of attention with last year’s EP (their second) The French Press – a vital sounding take on a dog-eared indie rock; a collection of direct, melodic, memorable songs that packed a punch while addressing adult ennui and mores of the day.
Hope Downs thankfully doesn’t veer too much from the blueprint of the excellent aforementioned EP. The eye for detail demonstrated on The French Press is, if anything, compounded into a more ambitious, cinematic form of storytelling. Opener ‘An Air Conditioned Man’ is a psychogeographic story of love and regret, peppered with whimsical Jarvis-isms, noticing the wall where a first kiss was shared. Like a lot of the record, it pays special attention to specific moments in time and specific locales.
For all this is a record which addresses fairly universal themes, it does feel like a particularly parochial record – particular landmarks and places are anchors for memory and experience. ‘Cappuccino City’ is an excellent case in point for this, its lyrical minutiae and emotional nuance married to languid country-tinged indie rock. Lead single ‘Talking Straight’, a beautifully articulate song about a decaying relationship, has a gorgeous lilting guitar line reminiscent of fellow antipodeans The Go-Betweens. Musically, much of the record recalls indie-rock of the 1980s, but never falls into the territory of pastiche. Bands like The Clean and The Feelies are very much part of Rolling Blackouts vocabulary, and are much more successfully assimilated than, for example, Real Estate manage. Vocal duties are shared by Fran Keaney, Tom Russo, and Joe White, which really colours the identity of the band and makes these astutely observed songs feel all the more universal.
Rolling Blackouts have a real knack for conciseness and, lyrically and musically, no idea overstays its welcome. ‘Time In Common’ takes a considerable amount of twists and turns in its succinct two minutes and five seconds – it’s a gorgeously observed vignette about shared experience. Over its short running time Hope Downs seldom makes any mis-steps. Sister’s Jeans is an uncharacteristically lethargic centrepiece that takes away some of the momentum from the flow of the record, as the songs it bookends are vibrating with energy.
This is a salubrious, satisfying record that bears for repeated listens. It’s beautifully melancholic without ever being particularly introspective; its crosshairs are cast out and paying attention to the small detail that we encounter everyday. It’s Russo, White and Keaney’s effortless ability to make these small instances romantic and cinematic that makes Hope Downs a tremendously satisfying listen.
Hope Downs is released on June 15th through Sub Pop.