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This Escondido, CA-based foursome originally started out as a solo project for Anacortes, WA singer/guitarist Dave Matthies. Following four albums on his Knw-Yr-Own label with various WA musicians from 2000-06, he moved to southern CA and met his (now) wife and drummer/singer Andrea (Gruber) Matthies. Together, they released the band’s lo-fi, laidback fifth LP Good Bye/Good Luck in 2009 and (with keyboardist and fellow WA transplant Karl Blau) its louder, psych-tinged follow-up Hard Facts Are Still Uncertain in 2014. After Blau’s move back to WA, the Matthieses recruited guitarist Matt Lawson and bassist Alanna Cassidy for this seventh album. Mastered by Frank Arkwright at the famed Abbey Road Studios in London, New sounds more robust, expansive, and sonorous than their previous six. Thanks to Lawson’s and Matthies’ thick layers of shimmering, spacious guitars, it also has a more pronounced, “newfangled” (pun intended) dreampop/shoegaze influence. Leisurely-paced songs such as “Telekinesis” and “Best We Could Do” manage to sound sweeping and cinematic, bringing to mind A Catholic Education-era Teenage Fanclub (think “Everything Flows”), Adam Franklin’s Bolts of Melody, or a lighter, less fuzzed-out Jesus and Mary Chain.
Behind Andrea’s whopping, weighty stickwork, harder-hitting tunes like “Suitcase,” “Eyes on the Prize,” and “Is It That Important?” hint at Franklin’s other, heavier band Swervedriver, with traces of Doves and Death Cab for Cutie. And throughout, little accoutrements like the slide/surf guitar shading on the hazy “How About You” and guest Blau’s billowy saxophone bleats on the buzzing “It’s All True” add allure. But despite the dense, drifting walls of guitars that surround them, it’s the Matthies’ warm, interweaving vocals that remain the highlight. Without sacrificing any clarity, Dave’s languid and lulling leads evoke J Mascis, Mark Kozelek, and Idaho’s Jeff Martin, and are synchronously softened and strengthened by his spouse’s soothing harmonies. Nowhere is their sedative singing more pacifying than on New’s final four songs, which suddenly slow to a crawl, displaying Low/Galaxie 500-like glacial tempos. On drowsy ditties like the Twin Peaks-ian “Better Left Unsaid” and the echoed, ethereal “Lights Out,” their delectable duets recall similarly transfixing male/female tandems like Low’s Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker, or Slowdive/Mojave 3’s Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell. Whomever your most dependable “gift machines” are this holiday season, be sure to remind them not to overlook this lovely LP.
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