See Gulls offer up another impressively expansive EP with Curtain Call, one that stretches out both its sound and its emotional impact.
Last year's You Can't See Me, the first EP from North Carolina's See Gulls, was a set of five tight power-pop songs that also managed to stretch their legs, dipping their toes into spacey atmospherics and complex layers of sound, even while each song maintained a focused, plaintive, and infectious center. On the band's new EP, Curtain Call, they push their ability to sound-shift even further.
Opener "Boss Hog", the first song by band member Leah Gibson, is a crunchy rock tune made gauzy through some great vocal harmonies. But make no mistake, the song isn't dreamy. Instead, it plays like a distant cousin to Superchunk's "Slack Motherfucker", but swap out the outright vitriol of that song for a sly, dangerously knowing smirk. "Boss Hog" devastates with a whisper.
Like "Boss Hog", much of Curtain Call pushes back at moments of confusion or disappointment. Doo-wop vocals haunt the edges of "Where are We Going", adding to the song's sense of frustrated wandering. Elsewhere, "Kidding Me"opens with exasperation—"You've got to be kidding me"—and as the song recounts running into someone you do not want to run into, Maria Albani's rumbling tom work on the drums and Gibson's steady bass slowly pile the tension of the moment on. Closer "You're Here" relies on a hazy bed of guitars laid down by Sarah Fuller and Duncan Webster, and it feels like a fitting end to Curtain Call, a song stuck somewhere between bleary-eyed and resolute, dragging yesterday behind it like a long shadow even as tomorrow threatens to come on.
This EP is expansive both in sound and in its emotional heft. For every disappointment, there's a deliberate and powerful push back. Damage may be done by the "leading man", but See Gulls make it clear on Curtain Call that they are the directors. These songs tell the story, and they tell it awfully well.