Throwback to a Simpler Time
The ’90s were maybe the last great era for music. Sure, great music is being made today, but the ’90s were the last “unconnected” decade– you still had to read music magazines, indie publications, go to shows, watch 120 Minutes and buy physical products. It was a great time. Listening to the new album by Glasgow’s The Pastels, Slow Summits, can easily transport one back to those halcyon days.
The Pastels have officially been a group since 1981. While their sound has changed over the years, it’s refreshing that their new record doesn’t sound like modern indie rock. They clearly have a love for the sound of the “alternative music” they grew up with. Much like classic albums from the ’90s, Slow Summits vacillates between greatness and blandness.
The album opens with “Secret Music,” a shuffling little song that showcases Katrina Mitchells’ vocals. Unfortunately, Mitchell isn’t a great singer. Her voice has character, but her range is limited. At the same time, her vocal quality is a big reason why this music sounds so dated. She sings in a style that is reminiscent of classic ’90s voices like Julianna Hatfield, Kristen Hirsch, etc. As imperfect as Mitchell’s voice is, it is refreshing hearing singing like this.
“Check My Heart” sounds like the obvious tent-pole single of the record. It has all the trappings of a “college rock” hit but fails to become addictive. It sounds fantastic, with muted horns and a cool drum track, but once it ends, there is no impetus to press repeat, which is the purpose of a single. Perhaps it is the lack of a signature voice that ultimately flatlines these songs.
If the pop numbers are a bit forgettable, the instrumentals shine. “Plus You” is a mysterious odyssey through interesting musical textures that positively excites the imagination. The Pastels have a history of scoring films and tracks like “Plus You” highlight their experience. Another stand-out instrumental is “Slowly Taking Place,” a breezy track that walks a fine line between vintage lounge and indie rock. Everything about this track oozes cool and confidence; it’s the perfect track to play on a sunny morning with the windows open.