Friday, June 25, 2010

Pink Graffiti - Secret Cities

Pink Graffiti

Secret Cities
Western Vinyl Records.

SCQ Rating: 70%

When Fargo-based outfit Secret Cities released the digital single Bright Teeth in March, they manned a strange nexus bridging glitchy hip-hop to the architecture of monolithic indie-rock. Whether executed purposefully or accidentally, Bright Teeth’s hybrid was an unstable one; weighed down in terse strings but peppered with lively laptop thumps, its very appeal was fatedly tied to its volatility.

While subsequent full-length Pink Graffiti still deals in some electronic textures, the early glitch of its predecessor has proven a red herring with Secret Cities (MJ Parker & Charlie Gokey) sounding closer here to an intricate Arcade Fire. Nowhere is the comparison more apt than on ‘Pink Graffiti Pt.2’ and ‘Pink City’ where massive, churning melodies are haunted over by eerily tracked vocals and impressive harmonies layer each respective song. In the shadows of these constructs lies some of Secret Cities most accomplished material; ‘Aw Rats’ drifts wonderfully on a muddled urgency and lullaby ‘Colors’ twinkles over a cotton-candy sweet lilt without turning twee or saccharine. Few other examples stick to the sharpened focus evident here and Pink Graffiti emits that aforementioned instability, whereby tracks either break the glass ceiling or hard-nose their limitations. As towering a presence as this kind of songwriting offers, Secret Cities can only get so far without conveying a live energy to match their dizzying ascensions. There’s an undeniable desire to keep these tracks on their toes, from the rippling piano that fades in from casual whistle-work on ‘Pink Graffiti Pt.1’ to the rhythmic ‘Slacker’ that dissipates into sweet viola melodrama, but the efforts to make an epic of Pink Graffiti only dulls its hooks.

With every song detailed and gracefully unfurling, it seems impossible to predict upon first listen how many spins Pink Graffiti will need to live up to the heavenly promise it hints at. To many, this record might require just one. Yet given the band’s clear trajectory for indie-rock pastures, this record sounds too deliberated over and too polished to transmit said genre’s restless energy. They may still be carving out their identity but it’ll be a crime if Secret Cities doesn’t find a deserving audience.

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