REVIEW: Blouse – Blouse

Blouse are a female-fronted dream pop band from Portland, Oregon. The band are a trio who formed after two friends, vocalist Charlie Hilton and bassist Patrick Adams, finished art school and met Unknown Mortal Orchestra producer/bassist Jacob Portrait. Their eponymous debut is a cocktail of synths, dreamy vocals and retro basslines that Joy Division would be proud of.

Front-woman Charlie Hilton delivers vocals that are soothing to the ear, but also have a haunting quality to them. She hits lower notes to a tee and her delivery can come close to a whispering quality, that really helps the chilled-out nature of the music, and seeps into your subconscious.

Lyrically, Hilton uses repetition to her advantage. The end of They Always Fly Away is that much more affecting because of the repetition of the title while the synths and drums slowly fade away. The same applies to Time Travel, where Hilton spends the latter half of the song repeating the refrain “I was in the future yesterday”, which is a sign of their obvious desire to have been around during the 80’s synth-pop boom. The rest of the album deals with themes of love and it all sounds very romantic, and this is expressed in the way Hilton sings.

The bass on most of the tracks sound like they would fit well on most of Unknown Pleasures, showing the bands obvious admiration for the bands that have come before them. Electronic drums protrude through all the record giving it a pulse that flows on an on, and doesn’t give up throughout the whole of the record.

Into Black starts with an intro that sounds synonymous with the 80’s synth-pop scene, very much reminiscent of early era Cure, with a bassline throughout to bolster that inspiration. Album midpoint Videotapes is shrouded in synth, with them almost drowning out Hilton‘s vocals. This makes a nice change from the minimalist feel of the tracks that came before.

The biggest downfall of the album is that, although none of the tracks are decidedly bad, they don’t do enough to separate themselves from one another, and the album seems to blend all into one. The music industry has seen no shortage of retro 80’s throwbacks as of late; it’s a shame that Blouse didn’t come out with this debut sooner, because then it would seem like a record more worthy of applause than it is currently.

2011 has seen a lot of great albums that you could stick into the same ballpark as Blouse, such as BRAIDS, Still Corners and New Look. I’m just not sure that Blouse show enough individuality to really stick out in this day and age.

Still, the album is enjoyable enough to make it worth listening to. Dream pop is a genre that has seen a recent revival in a big way and shows no sign of slowing down any time soon. With their debut, Blouse show that they know how to write a good set of songs that mimic the spirit of music from the 80’s, but until they find their own identity they risk never being able to capture the attention of the larger audience that they will someday deserve.

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