:) is so chill. A lo-fi rock album from Toronto-based artist Glitter Party, this record manages an outrageously impressive feat: getting the balance between the “lo-fi” and the “rock” just right. It can be a noisy album, sure, but never cacophonous; energetic, but never frantic. It is one of the very best underground albums of the year, and an unmissable listen as 2020 comes to a close.
In an attempt to describe :) to my fellow editors upon a first listen, my brain conjured up the words “distorted beach rock.” Somehow this description still rings true. This album constitutes a marriage of upbeat summer jams with a handful of depressed, new wave sensibilities. And it’s great. Take its opener, ‘crawford’, a mesh of fast-paced guitars and echo-y vocals. A dynamic tune, free-playing with its tempo, this track immediately pulls you into the album and, as Glitter Party belts “I can’t get over the thrill”, nor can you. ‘crawford’ demands your attention and, as ‘next wave’ fades in, :) has you locked down. While less supercharged than :)’s opening track, this is a song that provides ample breathing space while still being an undeniable banger of a tune. It is the intimacy of its lyrics, however, that elevates ‘next wave’ into becoming one of the album’s highlights. The vulnerability that comes with the line “Is it real, how I feel?” makes this one of the record's most touching moments.
‘glass house’, the album’s third track, then constitutes a change of pace for :) in two major ways. The first is that it slows things down. ‘glass house’ is the first song in this record that leans significantly more towards the low-fi side of low-fi rock – to very chill results. Laid-back beats and distorted keys take center stage in this moody tune that, simultaneously, kick-starts a trend that will define the larger part of the record: ‘glass house’ is a purely instrumental track which, in an interlude-like fashion, creates a divide between two songs which do feature vocals, ‘next wave’ and ‘skeletonzzz’.
The instrumental tunes in :) tend to opt for a more relaxed, ambient vibe than the rest of the album. Nevertheless, each of these tracks has something special about it, a distinguishing feature that separates it from the others and makes it unmissable. ‘shower song’ keeps threatening to power off before picking its tempo back up again, a trait that makes the track as gripping as it is trippy. ‘rainforest cafe’, too, features a set of subdued cymbals that make it an appropriately “rainy” tune.
All three instrumental tracks provide inventive, welcome rest periods between the heavier tracks of the album. The aforementioned ‘skeletonzzz’ reverberates along in a pleasant stream of fuzzy guitars until it meets the mystifying ‘shower song’. Then the latter gives way to the fantastic ‘:)’, a soft, dreamy track whose wavy strings perfectly complement its first few lines
“I can’t sleep at night
Thinking about the things that I said
And what I did”
So many aspects of ‘:)’ (the song, and also the album) manage to encapsulate a gentle kind of melancholy I largely associate with chilled out, new wave-y releases like Beach House’s Depression Cherry, or Gorillaz’s The Now Now. It's constantly shifting, swapping between the soft release of anthemic ooh's and 21st century malaise, but always grounded by Glitter Party's exceptional ability as a songwriter and the rough-yet-inviting charm of :)'s unique approach to production.
The last three songs in :) drop the interspersed instrumentals, but do continue to provide some absolutely solid tunes. ‘honda suv’ follows on from ‘:)’ and ‘rainforest cafe’ by picking up the pace and injecting a little more rock into the final stretch of the album – then ‘when this is all over’ takes it to the next level. It being the most energetic song in the record after ‘crawford’, part of me wishes ‘when this is all over’ was this album’s final track, ending :) off in an animated high note. While I appreciate the irony of 'uncertainty' following a track that so heavily imples an ending with its title, I still believe :)'s wrap-up would be somewhat stronger if it stopped after the single-coil explosions of 'when this is all over' rather than the sleepy (yet warmly satisfying) Mac Demarco-esque instrumentals of the album's closing song. Don't get me wrong, 'uncertainty' is still good - in fact, it's better than 'good' - but it could have been put to better use earlier in the album, allowing 'when this is all over' to blast the record to a phenomenal finale.
:) is an unquestionably impressive project with a strong, personal sound and barely any dull moments. It is also restrained, remarkably so, as it would have been easy for a lo-fi rock record like this to bend slightly too much in one direction (to likely disastrous results). But not Glitter Party.
This is an introspective, confidently crafted record – and I cannot wait to listen in on whatever follows.
- 7.9 -
'crawford', 'next wave', ':)'
find Glitter Party on instagram, and listen to :) on spotify
with this link immediately
Ainhoa Santos Goicoechea (pronounced "I-know-ah") is a culturally confused Creative Writing postgraduate student from the Basque Country, Spain. She is passionate about film, music and politics, and she should probably know more than she does about all three.
Thanks for reading! Slow Motion Panic Masters is a music, arts and culture blog created and co-edited by Ben Wheadon, a literature student and musician based at the University of Oxford. He is also a Fleet Foxes shill.
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