On first blush, the debut from NY’s GIFT seems too put together, an almost perfect encapsulation of the kind of hot-light psych-pop that ruled rock through the early aughts. While some blurred traces of this strain remain, most of them got consumed by the pop half of that dynamic long ago. Instead, GIFT roll the clock’s hands backwards and embrace the dynamic-heavy headiness of Silver Machines, the slick-surface iciness of Serena-Maneesh, and the smudged pop halo of School of Seven bells. The band filters their modern influences through the frosted shoegaze prism of the past as well, pulling from what those band’s picked out of the Medicine and Chapterhouse catalogs as well. The resulting album, is a gauzy, love-lorn collection that clips along on an knuckle-crack bedrock of propulsion.
I’m still a sucker for a record that’s built around the album format, rather than glued together in post, and GIFT seems more than eager to fill that need. The record has its obvious singles, from the towering whiplash of “Gumball Garden,” to the oil n’ light liquidity of “Share The Present” but the rest of the album doesn’t just act as backdrop to the bright spots. The group lets the record build, billow, and collapse in some corners. The songs act as bridges to one another, wafting the dry-ice smolder of one into another. They ease the throttle on some corners, catch the pavement and stomp down on others. TJ Freda nails the niche of letting his vocals get lost between the folds of heady pop, a trick employed by pretty much every Valentine acolyte from the moment they laid their first singles. GIFT’s charms lie not in scrutinizing the individual pop tropes, but in pulling back to appreciate the musical character study they’ve pulled off. Squint and this one feels like a crate-dug mystery from ’05, a feat that seems easier said than done, and certainly not done this well.
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