[12 March 2012]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Alaska in Winter, the musical project of Brandon Bethancourt, has delivered a decidedly sad set in Suicide Prevention Hotline. It’s a dark sheen these songs ride on, but under the overcast hum of these electro-pop numbers, there is an honest humanity. It usually comes out in the clean piano that cuts through all the formless waves of sound here. Unfortunately, all the layers here feel overdone—often anonymous in their grey electronic haze—and obscure Bethancourt’s presence in his own music. Despite pining for love as a road to healing and wondering about faith in curious ways, it’s difficult to sift through the melodramatic strings on “Forever Twenty-One Gun Salute” or “‘Divine Miscalculations”, or distinguish “Demons” from any shadowy late-‘80s electro-pop. The finest moment on the album comes in the drawn out solo piano that plays at the end of epic closer “Downward Spiral Dial Tone”. It’s solitary and haunting, laid bare and beautiful, and shows exactly what all these thick, oft-unnecessary layers of sound hide all over the EP. Suicide Prevention Hotline may have something to say under it all, but it’s a collection obscured by its own sound, worn down by the weight of its too-smooth textures.