Music

Soundpool: Mirrors in Your Eyes

For their third album, the NYC shoegazers step out onto the dancefloor.


Soundpool

Mirrors in Your Eyes

Label: Killer Pimp
US Release Date: 2010-04-27
UK Release Date: 2010-04-27
Amazon
iTunes

It's pretty amazing that a music scene as short-lived and ill-defined as "shoegaze" could have such a lasting effect. Named, to the bands' chagrin, for the disinterested way they would look down at their feet while playing, the "shoegazers" created ethereal, often majestic sounds by camouflaging their guitars with layers of effects until they sounded more like synthesizers.

The style had its roots going back to texturalists like Brian Eno and Robert Fripp, and was more directly influenced by boundary-pushing indie pop bands like Felt, Cocteau Twins, Kitchens of Distinction, and the Jesus and Mary Chain. The British "indie dance" craze of the early 1990s gave the shoegazers a ticket to brief stardom, in the UK at least. The sculpted guitar haze worked surprisingly well with the then-prevalent shuffle rhythms. You could count the major shoegaze bands, all of them British, on one hand. Ride, Slowdive, Lush, and Chapterhouse are the usual suspects, though there were others, some lumped in erroneously because the critics had nothing better to do. When the Happy Mondays and Jesus Jones faded from public favor, the shoegazers followed. The scene was dead faster than you could say "Britpop".

Yet it never exactly died. The original bands split up, but others started to spring up in the mid-1990s. Curiously, many were American. There seemed to be a consistent audience for bands that inverted the guitar noise of hard rock and turned it into something pretty and ponderous. The rise of electronic dance music gave these bands a new platform for their effects racks and reverb. And that's pretty much where things stand, 15 years later.

The New York band Soundpool have been compared to Slowdive, but that really wasn't fair. On the evidence of their first two albums, Soundpool simply weren't nearly as good as that. You can't just take a mysterious, pretty girl with a pretty voice, add those guitars, and end up with something substantial. Yes, you still have to have songs. And few of Soundpool's made a lasting impression.

With Mirrors in Your Eyes, Soundpool have decided to emphasize the disco beats that have always been an element of their music. A good, clean beat that you can dance to can cover a lot of songwriting shortcomings, but leaders John Ceparano and Kim Field have improved in that area, too. This is still mostly in-one-ear-out-the-other stuff, but it provides a pleasurable, danceable experience while it's there. Mirrors in Your Eyes is a very cool-sounding album, and that goes a long way. It could have come out ten years ago, or 15 years ago. Whether that's a compliment depends on your perspective.

A crucial key to Mirrors in Your Eyes is that the electronic rhythms work. They're crisp, sharp, and well-produced, retro rather than dated. Soundpool have gone all-in with the dance thing, too. These are big, club-ready beats, and better for it. The title track opens the album with a blast of filtered noise and what sounds like an actual synth, before the beat and a surprisingly funky disco bassline kick in. Field's thin but beguiling voice slots in beneath the barrage, just where you'd expect it. This is the formula from which Soundpool work for the rest of the album, and most of the time it succeeds.

The centerpiece is "Makes No Sense", which finds the all the album's strongest elements coming together in one three-minute capsule of bliss. With a pounding four-on-the-floor rhythm, acid bassline, melancholy synths, and interplanetary guitars, the song sounds like someone held up a tape recorder in the middle of a packed club in 1992 while Saint Etienne was blaring. In other words, glorious. Elsewhere, "Kite of Love" and "Listen" work a more jazzy vibe, while "I'm So Tired" spins out into space in almost gothic fashion.

Inevitably, Mirrors in Your Eyes begins to suffer from some the tracks' similar template. Some songs go on too long, lost in their own haze. But the only real dud is the limp Jesus and Mary Chain redux, where Ceparano takes over the vocals. Otherwise, Soundpool's dancefloor excursion makes a pretty good case for shoegaze's longevity.

6


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Books

A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.

Music

The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Music

Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.

Music

Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.

Television

HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.

Music

Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.

Music

Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.

Books

'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.

Film

'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.

Music

Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.

Music

DYLYN Dares to "Find Myself" by Facing Fears and Life's Dark Forces (premiere + interview)

Shifting gears from aspiring electropop princess to rock 'n' rule dream queen, Toronto's DYLYN is re-examining her life while searching for truth with a new song and a very scary-good music video.

Music

JOBS Make Bizarre and Exhilarating Noise with 'endless birthdays'

Brooklyn experimental quartet JOBS don't have a conventional musical bone in their body, resulting in a thrilling, typically off-kilter new album, endless birthdays.

Music

​Nnamdï' Creates a Lively Home for Himself in His Mind on 'BRAT'

Nnamdï's BRAT is a labyrinth detailing the insular journey of a young, eclectic DIY artist who takes on the weighty responsibility of reaching a point where he can do what he loves for a living.

Music

Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few Play It Cool​

Austin's Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few perform sophisticatedly unsophisticated jazz/Americana that's perfect for these times

Music

Eleanor Underhill Takes Us to the 'Land of the Living' (album stream)

Eleanor Underhill's Land of the Living is a diverse album drawing on folk, pop, R&B, and Americana. It's an emotionally powerful collection that inspires repeated listens.

Music

How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.

Books

Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.

Music

Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.