Blouse at the Vera Project, Seattle | 17 September 2013
The big news about Blouse‘s second album Imperium is that Portland band has ditched their synths and gone for the guitar, bass and drum (and cello) approach on this new batch of songs. While this isn’t exactly a controversial approach, it is different and so sets them up for the possibility of fans being upset about their new direction. One thing Blouse proved on their debut album was that they could write a decent pop song. So the real question is can they still write a descent pop song? The next question is do the new songs sound as good with the new approach? Yes, and yes. In fact, Imperium has better songs that make a bigger impression on the listener.
Their self-titled debut had some good songs but its synth based sound caused the record to float by like a plastic band in the wind. Easy to take notice of, but not leaving a lasting impression. Imperium has no such problem. There are remnants of their stylized sythesizers, but they are replaced with a cello. This record deals in guitars, rumbly bass and Charlie Hilton’s ethereal vocals. The closest comparison would be to Broadcast‘s The Noise Made by People. There is a folk-based 60 sound to Hilton’s vocals similar to Wendy & Bonnie and the Free Design combined with comet scar guitars and other interstellar stardust that floats out of the speakers when you play this record.
Last night at the Vera Project they really let loose. The guitars were turned up and the keyboard was in the corner as they glided through the best of the new album putting new wings on songs like Arrested, 1000 Years and Trust Me. In photo’s Blouse appear as a trio, but they’ve added a second guitar player who plays a beautiful lavender Jazzmaster. This additional power made the songs crackle and spark. The band appeared loose and it seemed like the songs felt new to them making it fun for everyone. They dolled out Cure-like baselines, shards of shoegaze noise pop while Charlie’s voice seemed to float on top of it all. The twin guitar attack of Arrested was easily the highlight of the show. It suspended time and place and created a nebulous cloud of euphoria in the room. One of the best shows I’ve seen this year.
stream: Blouse – Arrested (from Imperium out now on Captured Tracks)
Here are the remaining dates of their West Coast tour:
9/20 Portland, OR – Star Theater
9/21 San Francisco, CA – Bottom of the Hill
9/22 Los Angeles, CA – The Echo
9/25 San Diego, CA – The Void
9/26 Costa Mesa, CA – Detroit Bar