Safe as Houses is delicate in approach—dreamy synth-pop is perhaps the genre—and almost shockingly physical in its lyrics. The first line on the album: “There’s blood between my legs / And in the grass outside your house I came.” Zac Pennington’s singing is brittle, broken, and intense, his voice lending a harsh side to the often pretty music, while remaining pretty in its own ugly way. The songs build, in a Radiohead/Sigur Rós sort of way, though less epic, and they build stories of pain, suicide, doomed pregnancies, death by train, abuse, and savagery. These tales are drawn across bodies, within a musical cloak of hazy beauty. Music box, bedtime melodies meet with expressions of horror in uneasy, mysteriously attractive ways, sometimes meeting in a blast that makes the song seem like it will disappear into abstraction. But it never does: this is pop music. Dark, challenging, ugly, pretty pop music.
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