Pacer – The Space Between Us

The Space Between Us

I’m convinced that lo-fi is making a comeback, but maybe I’m just being ridiculous. After all, lo-fi has never really left. Many bands are forced to make their recordings lo-fi because of funds, but others do it purposefully because of the warm nature of the recording. But lately I’ve been hearing a lot more lo-fi indie pop bands, and every one is remarkably different and enjoyable. And add Pacer to the list, with this, their first full-length recording, completely recorded on analog equipment.
Pacer is composed of husband and wife Jeremy Mathews and Kim Ware-Mathews, along with Bill Patterson on bass. Jeremy and Kim split the vocal duties pretty much per song, which changes up the pace and feel of the album. And the band further changes things up by adopting their sound to the song, going from lo-fi indie pop to a much more rocking sound to an odd, off-kilter style that falls somewhere in between. Normally, changing styles throws me off and turns me off, but here it works, because this band is just as comforting and catchy on one style as the next.
“Rain in July” starts things off with a very low-key, lo-fi feeling. Jeremy sings on this one, and the song reminds me somewhat of some of the earlier Yo La Tengo songs but a bit more relaxed. Nice effects are the emphasis on a subtle bass line and some pretty tinkling sounds supplied by, of all things, a glockenspiel. “Famous” is probably my favorite track, with Kim’s vocals adding a dose of attitude and echoing guitars adding a bite to the mix. “China Doll” demonstrates the warm feeling that analog recording gives you, adding a comforting layer to this mid-paced rocker. “Telescope” is definitely head-bobbing fun, with some slow-rocking guitar and handclaps and calls of “And the white girls play…” There’s even a subtle Make Up-style groove/soul thing going on here. “Secret Value of Pretending” has something of a darker feeling, reminiscent a bit of the Throwing Muses. Along those same lines, “Gloom Song” uses some Phantom of the Opera-style keyboards for a suitably gloomy feeling. And “Time” finishes things off slow and sweet, with some pretty guitar and bells for a lovely pop song.
Things aren’t all quite so perfect. “Fun,” for example, is somewhat plodding and comes out as just a little strained, although it’s saved in the moments that pick up the pace, especially with some great bass. And “Ballad of the Lawn King” is just strange. I’m not quite sure what the band was going for here, other than a silly song that sounds like it’s trying to be too serious.
So the jury’s still out on whether lo-fi is the better alternative for everyone, but for some bands, it supplies exactly the right sound. Pacer is one of those bands that sounds just right using the low-key approach. Their music has a comfortable feeling, whether it’s catchy indie pop or darker, edgier rock.