Monday, January 19, 2015

Sink Tapes, Creases, 2015

Album Review

It was exactly two weeks ago that I finally made good on my attempts to catch a Sink Tapes live show. The band played a nice, early show at Long Branch's Brighton Bar; and I took the opportunity to spend a few minutes with drummer / singer / songwriter Gabe Chiarello. We talked about the band's staggering output, and Chiarello mentioned that he takes his inspiration from Guided By Voices, just writing and recording as many songs as he can.

I'd never noticed it before, but there are definite similarities between Sink Tapes and Guided By Voices. It's not just the sheer number of songs. It's also the fact that Sink Tapes seem to realize that you can say everything you need to say in somewhere between 90 seconds and (under) 3 minutes. If you listen closely, you may find that Chiarello's vocals even bear a similar affectation to Robert Pollard's.

Sink Tapes' latest, Creases, opens with one of the band's longest songs in "Maybe Gray." The track bounces along on an infectious guitar riff, the intertwining of acoustic and electric guitar giving things an open and airy feel. I said in my review of Touchdown Buffalo that Sink Tapes really excel when they extend their ideas out past the three-minute mark, and that's true here.

That arbitrary three-minute number is just that, though, -- arbitrary. There isn't another song among the 12 main tracks on Creases that hits that mark, and the collection is a wonderful example of jangly, indie pop. "Bugs" has an ambling, easy-going vibe with its backing "ooohs," while upbeat single "Blow Me a Kiss" (which premiered right here) takes a simple idea and makes it into an early contender for best indie pop song of 2015.

"Dr. B," an electrified re-imagining of the dreamy "Doc Botnik's Housecall Band" from 2013's Mattress Cowboys EP, catalogs the medical and musical instruments employed by Dr. B and showcases Chiarello's surreal, Sgt. Pepper-y lyrical ability ("Take a sip of his medicine and you'll be feeling grand."). Similarly, Touchdown Buffalo standout "Dishes In The Dark" gets a slightly different treatment here. It's bigger, louder; and the "la la las" are hidden deep within a crescendo of electric guitars that lingers just a little bit longer than the original. Both of the original tracks appear among the thirteen bonus tracks included on Creases.

Most of the songs on the record have alternate or demo versions that can be found among the bonus tracks. The final version of "Small Lipped Bird" falls somewhere between the sound of the two bonus versions. There's a mostly acoustic demo of the shoegaze-y "Little Wriglys" that gives the song an entirely different flavor. The ideas in the Real Estate-esque "Pool Kid" show up in "Wet Trunks (Pool Kid Hooks Another)."

Creases does an excellent job, I think, of showing what Sink Tapes are about. Chiarello's vocals float in and out of the twin guitars of Ricky Kuczynski and Alex Kielmanski, creating some of the most engaging jangly dream pop I've heard in a long time. And not only do Sink Tapes write tons and tons of songs, but it would also appear that they record everything. After making the "final" decision on how a song should sound, the band provide listeners with everything. They allow listeners a window into their songwriting / recording process, while revealing their songs to be living, changing things.

January releases often suffer at year-end list time. Try not to forget about this one as the months go on, though I'm sure we'll have something else from these guys before too too long. That's just how they operate.

Creases is out now on New Jersey's Sniffling Indie Kids. It's out digitally tomorrow via Mint 400 Records, and you can begin downloading it from your favorite outlet for such things then.

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