(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Recording review - Eternal Summers, Correct Behavior (2012)

Classic new wave sound evokes 1982, with tight arrangements and striking vocals

Eternal Summers' EP Prisoner (review) was my introduction to the band last year. At the time, the duo's dream wave sound made an impression in a mere four songs. The new wave grooves coupled with Nicole Yun's ethereal vocals created an interesting mix. Her choppy guitar work meshed well with drummer Daniel Cundiff's tight beats.

But a lot has changed in the last year. The band has added a full time bass player (Jonathan Woods) and their new album, Correct Behavior has sidled closer to a classic new wave sound.

The thing I love about Correct Behavior is that it's a perfect page out of time. Their sound is unselfconscious, without being a ripoff or tribute. And yet they perfectly capture 1982 for me. Deborah Harry had inspired a new generation of post punk young women. Missing Persons, Berlin, Romeo Void...the radio was full of staccato guitars and striking feminine vocals. For me, 1982 is all about smoky clubs and intense new wave bands.

The opening track of Correct Behavior, Millions, has the slick sheen of new wave pop. Yun's lacquered vocals capture Terri Nunn's simple phrasing with dreamy detachment:
I've got to shake this shell
And break it into millions
But her guitar work is the standout element. The looped slices of rhythm guitar contrasts beautifully with the chaotic accents of ambient feedback and powerful riffs. The track has all the sparkle of Berlin's best work, but that touch of chaos is more modern.

That new wave sound anchors much of the album, from the Modern English sound of You Kill to the speedy Television beat of I Love You. While Yun's vocals occasionally hint at a hazier tone, Eternal Summers doesn't really reveal their dream pop side until the fifth track, It's Easy. The somewhat melodic bass line reaches for psychedelia but the guitar never gets enough echo or tremolo to let the track drift fully into head space. Nicole Yun's voice is wrapped in cotton wisp to form a thin veneer on top of the simple changes.

That ethereal sound makes a couple more appearances on the album, but Eternal Summers seem more interested in exploring post punk worlds. The welcome addition of the bass opens up a fuller band sound. Stripped down on Prisoner, the band seems to relish the luxury of having an extra member. Woods' bass on Good As You is subtle but powerful. He punches the beat with the guitar early on, but sometimes shifts to a loose twin of the vocals that makes the arrangement free fall a moment before settling back into the groove.

1982 was a good year for new wave. So is 2012.

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