Luscious harmonies, scratchy guitars and shuffling drumbeats abound on Kansas natives Shy Boys’ second full-length Bell House. Making the step from High Dive Records to Polyvinyl, home to fellow Alex Chilton-enthusiasts Beach Slang, we find the band in a contemplative, sun-kissed and half-stoned mood, throwing out brief, blissful pop reminiscent of Real Estate or perhaps Nap Eyes; that sense of hazy afternoons and long, cool nights that the best, most horizontal of indie pop can conjure is captured perfectly here by the Rausch brothers and compadres.
A dusting of melancholy draws out the delicate flavours of gorgeous, chiming ballads like the incongruously titled ‘Evil Sin’ (“If you want to be my friend, don’t ever lie again”), while a strong ‘70s power pop sensibility informs songs like lead single ‘Take The Doggie’, allowing room for some delectable Peter Buck-style ascending guitar lines amid the wash of sweetly whispered vocal.
On ‘Basement’, a sad and stoic acoustic psych number which recalls the simplest and most plaintive of Evan Dando’s purple period, Collin Rausch’s hushed vocal intones “Got a wife and a dog and I’m living in my mom’s basement”, adding humour to the DIY pop aesthetic, adding levity to the brevity if you will.
That these ramshackle charmers rarely last more than a couple of minutes is a plus - giving them the feel of snapshots or snippets of musical thought and experience. They’re like sweet and sour candies that you suck on for a brief and joyful moment, the taste of a passing summer through rose-tinted tastebuds.
When they push the boat out and go prog on the lengthy title track (which clocks in at a wildly indulgent near-four-minutes) the effect is one of ethereal loveliness, a lysergic suspension of normalcy as the band’s warming lo-fi offers a moment of transportation.
The tender romance of the piano-led ‘Disconnect’ and nostalgic closer ‘Champion’ put a bow on this slight, delightful package of slim, sweet tunes and will have you immediately returning to hit play on track 1 to experience the swiftly passing glow once more.
7Matthew Slaughter's Score