The stately winter mood evoked by Longplay 2 has given way to the lullaby dreaminess of Weekends, trading post-rock for shoegaze. The results are often excellent, though the record isn't without its missteps.
The perplexing but somewhat inspiring cover art for pacificUV's sophomore record Longplay 2 has always somewhat confused me, but at the same time the artwork does reflect the quality of the music within. The record's stately, epic brand of post-rock recalls an overcast winter landscape. In particular, album opener "Alarmist," with its dramatic, ringing chords, practically forces the listener to imagine a snow-capped horizon. Longplay 2 was a fine record, but it seems that the band isn't content to stick to one genre, no matter how good they are at that type of music. With Weekends the band has left behind the frigid winter of Longplay 2 and has crafted a record that evokes a hazy, dream-like state. Post-rock has left the building, and its slightly older cousin shoegaze has now entered.
From the beginning, it’s quite clear that Weekends is a substantially different record from its predecessor. After an elliptic opener in "Friday Night Dream", a memorable synth riff kicks in, placing the record in electro-pop territory. This is the main riff of the album’s lead single "Funny Girl", which sets a pretty high bar for the rest of the record. The song is likely to be a sleeper hit, but hopefully it gets wider attention. Lyrically, the song is simple enough, as the song is about what the title states: a funny girl. The chorus is simple, but highly catchy:
She’s a funny girl
In a well-torn, wicked world
And I know that
If she’s falling down
I’m falling down
2012 may have just begun, but given how good it is, “Funny Girl” could stand to be one of the year’s best singles. Hopefully, the album’s second single is the wittily titled “Be My Only Shallow Love,” which expertly layers a distorted guitar atop a subdued drum beat. Interestingly enough, though, the band doesn’t decide to take the rest of the record in that direction. The remainder of the album is more reflective of the album’s brief first track rather than its brilliant second. The results overall are good, though not all of the album’s Nyquil-drenched shoegaze works.
The band has been described as "a psychedelic Jesus and Mary Chain tripping on NyQuil", and while that statement isn't entirely true, the latter bit of that sentence is quite accurate for Weekends. Much of the record might actually put people to sleep. "Baby Blue," for instance, is so murkily lethargic that my eyelids began to droop only 30 seconds into the song. It’s not just Nyquil that the record’s sonic landscape recalls. The emotional “High” repeats lament “I get high off you,” over and over, and the results do sound like the result of a particularly cathartic high. That track is especially good in its balancing of that "high" feeling with a reflective orchestral sensibility, which turns the song's simple lyric into something much more poignant. Unfortunately, not all of the record's tracks are as good as "High" in creating an entrancing shoegaze mood; "Baby Blue" and "Going Home" don't just sound sleepy; they actually are, and they cross the line from wonderfully relaxed to dreamily boring.
Those sleepy tracks aren't the only misstep on the record. The use of the vocoder, while somewhat befitting to this type of music, is used rather strangely here. "Ballerina" mixes a highly robotic (read: grating) vocoder with an insistent bassline and textural electronics, sounding something like Daft Punk crossed with My Bloody Valentine. The song doesn't really work, and it clashes with just about every other track on the record. Album closer "Unplug Me" uses the vocoder better, but only slightly. A brief listen to "Ballerina" makes one wonder why the band didn't stick to the electro-pop that they did so well on "Funny Girl."
Nevertheless, Weekends is an overall success for the band, and a good showcase for the band's ability to change between genres effectively. As a result of the genre change, it's natural that they wouldn't get everything right, but what they do get right is well worth a listen. At the very least, Weekends is proof that the band can write one positively killer song, which is true, but the record is more than that. The grey skies of Longplay 2 have dissipated, and the pastel blue skies of Weekends are now in plain sight: a fitting way for pacificUV to begin 2012.