Making the Old New
Literature begs the Shakespearean question, “What’s in a name?” There is a pseudo pretentious air that can be off-putting, though it’s not that their music is so turgid as to be impenetrable. Chorus is one of the most easily accessible indie releases of the year. It plays it safe by clinging to familiarity, all the while cleaning up Literature’s overly under-produced sound. Their previous efforts were as lo-fi as can be and on this LP — their first since signing with Slumberland — the Philly band experiments with the sound of analog while in a far more professional studio setting.
If you’d like to get a feel of the type of sounds that Literature cherry picked for Chorus, you need only give a listen to the Beatles’ experimental gem “Tomorrow Never Knows.” Opening track “The Girl, The Gold Watch, and Everything” effectively fills out a similar checklist of flanging and Leslie-soaked vocals. It’s a catchy tune that comes across as more beach throwback than 60’s psychedelia. “Chime Hours” throttles the band into the 70’s with the kind of cheesy percussion backing that could just as easily be found in an early Toto song. It’s as if the collective nostalgia has come full circle and developed into something new; a sampling of everything we’ve unknowingly missed.
The eponymous “Chorus” signals a similarly safe melding before refining that sound into something far more modern on “Jimmy.” It is the latter tracks of this album that shine the brightest. Simply put, Literature find their footing in the unexpected. “Dance Shoes” rolls at a moderate pace, pelting you with beach-soaked twists and turns of a pitch that come across as haunting and almost mournful. Surprisingly, lyrical content doesn’t seem to factor in that strongly with the overall composite.
Vocals feel less like the conveyance of a message and more like an intricate thread woven into the tapestry that is Chorus. What is gleaned is a simplicity reminiscent of Best Coast. Short and sweet is a good sound for Literature, even as they test the boundaries of a modern day sound that’s forgotten its roots. It will be interesting to see what tools the band latch onto next for both fans and audio nerds alike. For it is in experimentation that the unexpected occurs. Let’s hope they push the boundaries farther than the hundreds of thousands that tread similar ground mere decades before.