Short But Sweet
For a record that is barely more than 25 minutes in length, there is a fair amount to say about Suburban Living’s self titled debut album; both good and bad.
Let’s start with the bad. In true shoegaze fashion, the vocals are buried in the mix to the point of being unintelligible. The drums come through clear, as does the bass, but the vocals get lost in with the guitars and synths. While half mumbled, intentionally occluded vocals are to be expected, here they muddy up an otherwise crisp mix. The other downsides to this record are the stylistic lifting taken from other artists and an overall aesthetic that is too considered, too plastic, too superficial.
“Dazed,” the lead track, is not the album’s strongest offering. It doesn’t go anywhere interesting after the first 16 bars, and the guitars are excessively blanketed in effects to the point of the sound losing any definition. Thankfully, it is the second shortest cut on the record.
With the bad out of the way, let’s focus on the positives. Regardless of wanting to dislike this record on technical or aesthetic grounds, no matter how jaded the scene may be about another 20-something hipster doing a record that would have sounded original in 1983–one where you can’t tell if the musical aping is sincere or cynical–this is an album to fall for. There is a simple optimism to the sound and the songwriting that is completely irresistible.
“Different Coast,” the second and strongest track, more than makes up for the shortcomings of it’s predecessor. It’s lush without being overpowering; all the parts meld together for some dream-poppy goodness but not to the point of being muddy. You also get beautifully layered, harmonized vocals that take on an instrumental quality. The other standout cuts on this record are “New Strings” and “Wasted.”
While it would be all to easy for the central conceit of Suburban Living’s sound to become repetitive, there are enough surprises and twists to keep it interesting throughout. Whether this is a product of musical ingenuity or the album’s brevity is hard to say. Regardless, this record will pull people in.