Ah, shoegaze. A genre that is almost comforting. A Place To Bury Strangers is back with a new album, Pinned, out on April 13th. This collection of songs is the sonic equivalent of being given a hoodie to wear during a snowstorm: it’s more about the thoughtfulness of gesture than the actual effect of it. This may come off as a backhanded compliment, but it’s meant as a full complement: no backhandedness intended. There’s a joy to be found in the juxtaposition of the energetic and often frenetic instrumentation and the morose vocal delivery and existential and political lyrics. To make this somewhat ironic approach work, it needs to be done with authenticity.
Exploring the songs on Pinned proved to be somewhat difficult for me, at first. The opener, “Never Coming Back’ is a resolute track but it’s not triumphant. There’s no sense of victory in the performance of the song, but it also doesn’t seem like apathy either. The perspective was hard for me to gauge. While I ended up landing on the idea that “Never Coming Back” was more about acceptance than anything else, I believe that others may come to their own conclusions.
APTBS manages to keep this general approach to their songs throughout Pinned. A song such as “Frustrated Operator” showcases their ability to do this. It’s a much more upbeat track that ends up sounding like Elvis Costello meets Bauhaus. The vocals are harmonized statements over a driving rhythm section that clocks in at two-and-a-half minutes. It’s hypnotic and concerning and utterly attractive. The power of the album is in the mesmerizing atmosphere of every song regardless of its structure.
It’s worth mentioning that the album is economical throughout its twelve tracks. The longest song present is the very first at just over five minutes, but many that follow are just over two minutes. I appreciate the brevity, as when things linger on a little too long in this style it can get monotonous fairly quickly. In general, I think that most of the ideas within the songs were allowed to show themselves to the right amount. “Look Me In The Eye” is the most slight at just a few seconds shy of two minutes, but it’s also one of the most sonically abrasive. Keeping it concise was a wise move.
The last track I’ll dig into is“I Know I’ve Done Bad Things.” This song is a bit of an auditory outlier from the rest of the songs on Pinned. It’s minimal in nearly every aspect. With just a dash of fuzz, and some electronic pops here and there, it’s noticeably different. With the vocals lying back further in the mix, it feels more distant and desperate. I simply can’t imagine the singer making eye-contact with anyone while performing this one.
A Place To Bury Strangers has weaved together a cornucopia of elements and styles here. With some punk, psychedelia, post-rock, and some new wave to boot. The themes and mood are consistent across the entire album and for this I applaud them. Even though the songs were concise, I still felt myself getting a little worn down from listening to the album, but I think that in some ways that is the point of this style of the music. Whether or not you enjoy Pinned will predominantly depend on how much you enjoy the stark emotion that’s present throughout its runtime. I think this is a fine example of how to put together an album that weaves through complicated emotions with style. If you can handle the weight of it, I recommend you listen.
Notable Tracks: “Execution”; “Frustrated Operator”; “Was It Electric”
FFO: Autolux, Airiel, The Warlocks