There is not a direct science behind the creation of music that is worth listening to, but there seems to be a direct correlation between talented musicians who approach each subsequent project with a full panorama of conscientious approaches, as opposed to bands who churn out whatever-the-hell each year in an effort to keep their names relevant. Adhering to the former principles, Cymbals Eat Guitars have climbed the exalted ladder of the indie rock haven in the seven years since their formal debut, and all flippant mumbo-jumbo about the looming influence of Pavement should be written down, balled up, and discarded.
They're a band that make seismic evolutions with each subsequent release, like their intimate, laudatory 2014 LOSE album that branded them with a warranted #bandsyoushouldcareabout golden hashtag. With Pretty Years, the band is taking that sensibility to new heights - simultaneously catering to the same New York spellbinding block party rock that first catapulted them to acclaim and branching out into experimental, uncharted territory.
Such has been the pleasurable ass-backwards trend this year, kinetic bands like Cymbals Eat Guitars are using technological advancements to sound more kinetic on record, making an effort in the studio to make music that sounds like it wasn’t recorded in a studio at all, but rather live on tour. From frontman Joseph D’Agostino’s stirring performance on 'Finally' onwards, Pretty Years a looser effort than LOSE, adhering more to the band’s live sound than more polished gloss like 'Jackson' or 'Chambers'. A procession of meticulously-arranged synths and live-sounding instruments makes for a dynamic delight on single 'Wish', a song that seems to shout to the heavens the band’s exponential sonic maturity.
And speaking of maturity: Cymbals Eat Guitars have tackled millennial love anthems before with songs like 'Child Bride', but 'Have a Heart' is the closest the band has come to exploring meaningful relationships, bulwarked by D’Agostino’s sentimental roaring amid sprawling synths that scream just as loud. One of the band’s trademarks is their adult angst, seemingly on a constant inquisitive journey to discover truth via their lyrics, and 'Have a Heart' contains as many questions as it does answers. But it’s not all existential soul-searching, like the boisterous yet merry ambiance of 'Close', one of the most seductive tracks on one of the most seductive albums of the year so far.
In keeping with the concert feel of the album, '4th of July, Philadelphia (SANDY)' gives the listener a personal glimpse into the band’s chaotic life on the road and on stage. D’Agostino relies on his gift for exceedingly descriptive narration to transmit audiences into the band’s orbit as much as possible. It’s the type of record that demands repeat listens.
Ultimately, it is those transcendental moments that make Pretty Years a viable candidate for the best addition to the quartet’s catalog. Despite a noble resume, no other album comes closer to capturing the true essence of their onstage presence. The album’s closer, 'Shrine' is a plodding and tender finale but still maintaining the band’s signature punk with a splash of Seventies pizzaz. The pop music world tends to award lazy rehashing and a general lack of creativity, but most of those who appreciate more thoughtful projects will realise, especially if it wasn’t clear after LOSE, that Cymbals Eat Guitars are simply one of the best bands making music right now.
8Kellan Miller's Score