Saloon – If We Meet in the Future

If We Meet in the Future

Reading, England’s Saloon offers, on its second album, If We Meet in the Future, a collection of insistent, snaky melodies and quiet, minor-key vocals. Lead singer Amanda Gomez sounds almost exactly like the Sunday’s Harriet Wheeler, and if you want to get a sense of Saloon’s sound, imagine the Sundays taking a slow morphine drip and reading sad novels. The end result is sweetly melancholic indie pop marked by uncomplicated melodies played over a wash of subdued strings and that barely-in-key rhythm guitar style that everyone learned from Lou Reed. At least, that describes Saloon at their best; the album actually begins with its most up-tempo number. “Vesuvius” opens with a cloyingly repetitive hammer-on/pull-off guitar riff, but quickly saves itself with its tense rhythm and shivering melodica.
From there things smooth out, and If We Meet in the Future becomes the kind of album you can lose yourself within. The band favors a lot of synths, melodica, and glockenspiel, as well as the aforementioned strings, and the effect can be pleasantly hypnotic. A couple of the songs, like “Kaspian,” reach a little too far into dreaminess. That particular track seems to lose any sense of focus, and the lead instruments sort of wander cluelessly over Michael Smoughton’s overbearing cymbals and high-hat. The drums on this album were the one distracting part of the otherwise fine instrumentation. They weren’t off-tempo, but they seemed out of sync in a less literal sense, and always at the wrong level in the mix, the one part of the lo-fi production that doesn’t quite work here.
For the most part, Saloon sticks to the kinds of songs that work best for them, songs that begin with a tighter, clearer song structure than “Kaspian” has. “Dreams Mean Nothing” achieves the distant, dreamy quality “Kaspian” looks for, but it does so in a way that holds onto the listener a little better, not letting the vocals and instrumentation get lost in sound effects and samples. Basically, all I’m saying is that Saloon is not a group that should be looking to break into the jam band circuit. The best songs are the brighter, up-tempo songs, like “Absence” and “The Good Life” (which suffers only from a keyboard figure that, unintentionally I’m sure, sounds exactly like “Always Something There to Remind Me”). On these songs the melodicas and John Cale-style violas sound there best, adding layers of texture to the airiness of the harmonies.
“¿Que Quieres?” is, as you might guess, a song sung in Spanish. I would love it if the band did even more non-English speaking, if for no other reason than to separate itself a little from the English pop-music masses, since its sound doesn’t deviate much from that world. The bands seems poised (and is certainly good enough) to have the kind of breakout success enjoyed in recent years by Belle & Sebastian and others, but at this point they’re more likely to blend into the background of the pop scene. They’re from Reading, which their press material calls “the spiritual home of shoegazing,” and they seem drawn to alternative outlets of music making, not just touring as an opening act but also playing fashion shows and doing live film soundtrack performances for sci-fi movies. That kind of diversity is hinted at but not fully explored on If We Meet in the Future. Nevertheless, Future is more than an easy listen. It’s a bright, urgent, and charming album from an excellent young band.