Theselah – Nice International

Nice International

On their third album, Theselah is alternatively calm to peaceful and outright rocking. Tying the two brands of music together is the band’s penchant for fuzzed-out guitars that evoke a mid-90s rock feel a la Sebadoh, yet at times they use some studio effects and get downright dreamy, reminding me more of Bedhead. It’s an interesting combination, and it’s one that works quite well for the band.
Nice International feels like it has a beginning and an end. Starting off warm and coze, “Middle of Summer” is soft and dreamy, and “Clever Douglas” only adds in some more rhythm and light, melodic guitar to the mix, maintaining its subtle feel. And then the guitars kick in, fuzzed-out and blazing in a kind of relaxing yet intense way, and the band carries this feel on into the album, giving an edgy feel to the off-beat, moody “Trunk,” which features one guy telling a rather disturbing story over some wailing guitar and a thick, moody bass. “Red” is an up-tempo rocker with a bouncy rhythm and blazing guitars, and those smooth vocals make “Smoove” a slick track that’s probably my favorite. Despite its derisive title, “Kill Emo” is neither emo nor an obvious attack on the oft-maligned genre, instead turning out another rock number built on subtle vocals and thick, layered guitars.
There are some tracks that remind me more of the Sebadoh-style mid-tempo rock feel. “Perfect Unexceled” rolls along nicely, softly, with subtle “ba-ba-ba” backing vocals, while “O Mellow Syr” gets almost ambient in its quiet, drifting instrumentation. The closer, “Caroline,” is completely different, taking an a capella feeling gospel-like approach and providing a fine closer to the album.
Nice International is really a fine album that gracefully fits my model of indie rock. It’s a bit more subtle than, say, Pavement would be, but that subtlety allows the band to exhibit their talent and explore ultra-smooth vocals and some excellent guitar work. It’s a great headphones album as well, and it shows a band that’s clearly developing an excellent trademark sound.