While the band’s last album tried to fill the collective hole in their hearts from the loss of bandmate Zac Denton, on their latest, Cool Sounds seek a sound that trends towards a balance of bliss. They’ve always had a knack for concocting a sound that lays into a pocket of funk-striped indie pop, balancing comfort and cool, but here that dichotomy seems almost perfectly rendered. Underpinning the album is a crisp crackle of drums that snags the listener from afar. Its hard not to nod and let down the guards when Cool Sounds hits the speakers. The guitars and vocals fade in on hazed sunbeam — lounged, hip swung, carefree but not careless.
Perhaps that’s the best praise that can be laid on Bystander — when its playing everything seems a bit easer. In a year of clenched teeth and chaos that’s almost indispensable. The album isn’t a balm, that term has been broken and beaten, and anyway a balm seems something more inert than Cool Sounds could ever become. The album is a catalyst, helping to bring down the temperature in a room, to loosen the layers of life until they return to a state of balance once more. With an elastic snap, a slouched wink and a creep that treads like a slip-on but grips like a velvet vice, the songs on Bystander work their way at a molecular level to kick the serotonin up a notch. Sure, there are records that shake the foundations and force you to change with them, but right about now I’m all for a subtle boost of good graces flowing through my cells.
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