When we last checked in with them, Save the Clocktower had just debuted on the verge of a decision. While most bands will splay out over a mosaic of different sounds or simply play off of a single, tentative idea throughout the duration of their first record, this then-trio-now-quartet rendered Carousel along binary channels: big '90s Brit-rock and big '90s synth-pop.
Sourcing twin histories doesn't necessarily force a band to opt for one or the other as they move forward from their initial foray into making tunes, but it's nice to see artists commit to and expand upon a singular idea. On their sophomore LP Through the Glass, Save the Clocktower make the decision they set themselves up for on their previous record--and they go the ways of the synth.
Gone are the chunky guitars and flickery solos of Carousel's most Blur-ry songs. Instead, the band focuses on crafting more of the glassy nests of multicolored beats that fueled their debut's best tracks. Most of the old lo-fi fuzz has been shaved off in favor of a new gloss, although it'd be difficult to call any of these spacey analog swaths "slick." That warm, spongey space that distinguished the band's sound the first time around remains intact; it's just been dolled up a bit.
But although Save the Clocktower seem married now to analog electronics and the warm, crunchy sounds they create, it'd be wrong to lump this release in with, say, chillwave, downtempo or dream-pop (don't let it anywhere near the post-dub). The band may be using many of the same tools as their airier contemporaries, but they're keeping all eight feet planted firmly on the ground. The beats are dense, the leads opaque and everything's strapped to the planet with gas-giant gravity. This might be electronic music, but it's closer in spirit to the pure-pop sugar of Passion Pit and Yeasayer, with maybe a dash of Tame Impala psychedelics swirled in. Hooks soar, beats and bleeps throb and it's all done with such impeccable sincerity that it's hard not to enjoy yourself tremendously along the way.
And while some of the moves on Through the Glass might feel heavy-handed and cliche rather than charmingly retro (there's only so many times one can stomach "ooh, girl" as a lyric), on the whole Save the Clocktower has concocted another set of addictive tunes that churn perfectly through this hot, hot summer. What's more, they haven't just resigned themselves to the fork of the road they took from the last album. Glass's three closing tracks--a thick knot of eerie atmospherics into a slow melodic interlude into a guitar-based finale that's both the best track on the album and also completely unlike all nine of its predecessors--set the band up for a new twist in their trail. I can't wait to see where it takes them.
Through the Glass is available now from Save the Clocktower's Bandcamp. You can catch the band live on Friday, August 10th at Double Door.