Album reviews: Amber Arcades, EZTV and Ultimate Painting

Album reviews: Amber Arcades, EZTV and Ultimate Painting

Amber Arcades
Fading Lines (Heavenly)

A stereotypical indie-rocker might work as a barista or telemarketer; Utrecht songwriter Annelotte de Graaf is a legal aide for the international war crimes tribunal and the Dutch immigration office. As such, you could expect Fading Lines, her debut as Amber Arcades, to be full of ponderous downers, but it’s a solid album of dreamy jams, abetted by members of Quilt and Real Estate.

“Come With Me” leads off with swirling, chiming guitars and propulsive, krauty drums, with keyboards adding a faint sonic mist. The results evoke a more ornate Eternal Summers, and while it’s hard to decipher de Graaf’s lyrics (are those the fading lines?), she’s an appealing singer akin to the Summers’ Nicole Yun. The rest of the album varies the tempo but not the yearning vocals or the guitar-based textures—though vintage organ takes the stage on the Broadcast-like “Perpetuum Mobile.” “Turning Light,” the one lengthy track, sounds headed for unbridled soloing—it opts for static grooving instead, but we’ll see what happens when Amber Arcades plays the Southern with Nada Surf on October 6.

EZTV
High in Place (Captured Tracks)

I hate to gripe with High in Place, the second full-length by Brooklyn trio EZTV. Classic indie-pop structures are in full effect, and the players hit their spots. But returns diminish as singer Ezra Tenenbaum floats atop the proceedings like a diffident version of Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, narrating leisurely scenes of a charmed life. On one track he’s rolling down a hill, on another he’s in a hammock, “swinging slowly side to side…lying on my back staring at the sun.”

Returning to a standing position, Tenenbaum insinuates gentle turbulence in personal dealings. Characters seek “a little clarity” and blandly intone “there’s got to be some other way / there’s a better side you can see / I wonder how long it’s gonna be.” It’s easy to imagine High in Place wafting through the air during such scenes—which is also to say that for all the considerable craftsmanship, it doesn’t feel there’s a lot at stake in the tunes, either. Here’s hoping the concert setting breathes some life into the proceedings when EZTV joins Real Estate at the Jefferson Theater on September 29.

Ultimate Painting
Dusk (Trouble In Mind)

An English duo comprising James Hoare and Jack Cooper, Ultimate Painting could be labeled a side project or a supergroup—Cooper fronts Mazes, while Hoare helps lead Veronica Falls and the lesser-known, very excellent Proper Ornaments. But whereas “side project” implies self-indulgent wankery and “supergroup” suggests a bonfire of vanities, Ultimate Painting sounds like an inevitable collaboration of two hard-wired, sympathetic musical minds.

It also sounds like the self-titled Velvets record was on the stereo throughout the sessions, with some early Kingsbury Manx nearby. Songs adhere to a less-is-more aesthetic, and production is stripped down and clean—two guitars with some reverb but no distortion, plus minimal bass lines, muted drums and the occasional keyboard. Moods tack between the slightly ominous (“Song for Brian Jones,” “Who is Your Next Target?”) and the tender (“A Portrait of Jason,” “Monday Morning, Somewhere Central”), while Hoare and Cooper’s hushed vocals blend perfectly and their guitars interweave simple lines that seem to multiply rather than add up. Dusk achieves a beguiling alchemy—modest but assured, low-key but involving. Good stuff.

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