Written by: Dave Cantrell
Well, thank goodness for this ’13th month of 2017′ business because, by god, we missed ourselves some gems, dammit. Premier among them, arguably, this, Texas band El Lago’s impeccable, inspired, precocious debut. By most metrics bands should very rarely sound this sussed and accomplished on their first effort, but with Colors the band shows that not only is Galveston a potential hot market source for blissful-but-unyielding, gorgeously poignant rock music but that all things are possible when your heart is in the right (however wounded) place. In the end, we’re as grateful for having heard this – late though we may be – as we are anything else that crossed our consciousness in the recently too-quickly passed year. Have a read, and see if you agree.
Due its reliance on often breathy nuance and subtly soaring emotional cues, the term ‘dream pop’ will mean a thousand different things to a thousand different people. However, in El Lago, a four-piece from Galveston built upon the luminously understated vocal and guitar talents of one Lauren Eddy, it’s a strong possibility that those dreamy hordes, ever wistful for the next new ticket to glide, for another fresh forty minutes in which to lose themselves, would find common bliss in the immersive grooves of debut album Colors.
To some extent, certainly, such an assertion is based on a clutch of sonic signifiers – the singer’s commandingly gauzy vocals, blending the ethereal with the solidly grounded, whatever tremulousness offset by the grit of an unbending defiance; the glassy chime of guitar evoking crystalline – and, one would think, distinctly non-Galvestonian – atmospheres; progressions arranged along a linear pulse line that’s equal parts trance and revelation – but past those necessary elements, as well as they’re executed here, it’s the gravitas inherent that has me reaching for my dream pop Rolodex to direct one and all to this quietly thunderous new band from the deepest pocket of oil country.
Because, y’see, to the casual observer (or unengaged critic), this style of music, drenched in reverb and ringing with a kind of sparkling melancholy, is escapist by nature when in truth the opposite is by and large true. More often than not those dreams are riven with enough pain to make us all catch our empathic breath, and from opener “Tentative Threads,” a ballad at hazy – and achingly lovely – variance with that very word, to the vaulting restraint of final track “Dinner Guests” that would seem to take its cues from, among others, Kitchens of Distinction at their most keeningly vulnerable, Colors makes this clear.
“Into the Clearing” finds ecstasy trembling with doubt, abetted by some airy, early ’80s-reminiscent rhythm guitar funk, “Tell Me How It Ends”‘s rapturous pop, glistening with hurt, posits the Cocteaus hanging out with the Sundays on a lonely summer’s evening (a mood of crepuscular ruefulness hangs with a bright pall over much of this album), while the title track gets a bit more muscular with its dusky tropes, there’s a bit of a propulsive MBV charge to the bass (Jacob Villereal), Charles Eddy’s drums, though just as agile as ever, have more thunder to them as Laurens’s and Jaron Hall’s guitars trip upward toward treated, overarching harmonics that escape definition, and the touch of transcendent beauty El Lago would seem to be reaching for throughout finds its fullest attainment in these four minutes forty-three seconds.
Though it would be irredeemable not to remark on the record’s sure, glass-pure production work courtesy Austin Sepulvado and Steve Christensen – it’s possibly their Midas reflexes that results in early single “Devotion” suggesting a Stevie Nicks-fronted Fleetwood Mac vibe as heard in a reverie-inducing echo chamber – the core credit for Color‘s success as a succinct, calling-card debut (eight strong, focused tracks that manage that rare sweet spot where the concise is grafted to the expansive) belongs to the band, cultivating in these songs a kind of tightly-coiled iridescence that, if you’re pardon my saying, eddies around them like a current of sprent stars. Dream pop indeed.