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The experience of listening to Inner Classics, the second release from Cali-Canadian twosome Snowblink, is quite easy to replicate. Imagine it’s Sunday morning and you’ve just woken up in a massive, ridiculously comfortable bed, with plump marshmallow pillows and clean linen sheets. There may or may not be someone completely beautiful sleeping next to you (it’s your brain, you’ll have to fill some details in yourself), but there’s certainly sunshine streaming through the curtains. Feeling utterly content you let yourself drift off again, because frankly why not? All you’re planning to do that day is eat and read the paper anyway. For the next hour or so you drift in and out of consciousness, the sounds of the outside world - a radio in the next room, someone whistling as they walk past your window, the distant traffic - become part of your dream. Someone may have put their head around the door and offered you a cup of tea. Or did they? Maybe that happened yesterday, or last week, or never. The line between unconscious and awake blurs like vaseline on a camera lense, occasionally you’re lucid and sharp, but a dull sleepiness softens everything again, and you drift away.
Inner Classics is very much like that. It’s completely pleasant, it’s soothing, sometimes even beautiful and immaculately performed, but it’s also maddeningly vague. I’ve listened to it every day for the last week and I’d struggle to hum you a single chorus. Your mind wanders like that sleepy Sunday morning, the melodies, the voice, the chiming guitars mingling in your brain with your plans for tonight, your shopping list and your ongoing argument about who’d win in a fight between Chucky from Rugrats and Chucky from Child's Play. Occasionally a particularly good moment, such as lead single ‘Black and White Mountain’ will snap you back into the record, and you’ll discover a retro, reverby pop song with a subtle atmospherics and a wonderful singing voice but then... but then... but...no. It’s gone. The mind wanders back to whether you could cast Labrinth in the Bowie role if they ever remade the movie Labyrinth, or what ever happened to Alisha’s Attic.
It’s a shame because when it does grab your attention there’s a lot to enjoy. There’s a minimal, polished folk-pop album hidden somewhere here, and any one song taken on it’s own does stand up, the lovely, circular finger-picked refrain of ‘Safety Stories’ for instance, or the reverby, dreamy pop of ‘Unsurfed Waves’ (Jenny Lewis via the theme from Twin Peaks). Taken together though there’s not enough ideas and a depressing lack of bite. This stuff is not exactly hard to come by these days either- Want a classic, reverb heavy guitarist and reedy-voiced chanteuse? Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward do it better. Want mournful folk written in a cabin in the woods? The first Bon Iver album is already cued up and ready.
There are no bad songs on Inner Classics,, no painful moments, no dodgy production or misjudged directions. But there’s not much else either. Lighter than air and thinner than milk, like that lazy Sunday morning eventually you know you’re just filling time till something more interesting happens.