Thrushes – Sun Come Undone

Sun Come Undone

With the resurgence of shoegaze, I’m surprised that nobody has come up with some catchy new tag for the genre. I remember when Alternative Press tried to coin the word “wombadelia” to describe My Bloody Valentine; obviously, it never caught on. On second thought, maybe it’s better than nobody try to invent a new term to describe this kind of music. Everyone knows “shoegaze” so we’ll just stick with that.

Thrushes, a Baltimore band, has just released Sun Come Undone, and it’s a fine record for fans of shoegaze and indie rock in general. For whatever reason, this style of music seems to attract band members of both sexes. Thrushes consists of two men and two women, as did Lush and MBV; female representation in other such bands – Medicine, Swirlies, Drop Nineteens, Slowdive, Heart Throbs, Faith Healers, and so on – makes me think that there’s some sort of correlation here.

Sun Come Undone opens with the lovely “Aidan Quinn,” a Delgados-like track whose understated opening of rolling drums and sustained guitar chords eventually opens onto some noisy, distorted backing guitar work that fills the room. Owing to a good dose of reverb and other effects, the guitars here and on the other tracks have a rich, full sound without being overdone. The next track, “Heartbeats,” reminds us how far we’ve come since the early days of the genre. While it starts like Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Just Like Honey,” its production quality is light years ahead. Go back and check out Psychocandy. Its tinny production sounds more like the Velvets than it does any of the music it inspired.

While the album does have its share of uptempo, energetic moments, some of the more captivating passages happen when the band shows its restraint. While “Into the Woods” shows off the band’s rock side – in addition to possibly cribbing a note or two from The Chameleons’ “Paper Tigers” – “Loyalty” wins the beauty contest. Vocalist/guitarist Anna Conner sings melodies that both fit with and compete with the subtleties of the music backing her. As the tune grows in its fervor, she stays on point by reciting the same lines used before the rush of sound enveloped the space. It’s a beautiful, sad song. Bassist Rachel Tracy’s high notes work really well with Casey Harvey’s drawn-out, subdued guitar work.

Quite a few of the other songs also follow the “quiet then loud” blueprint of “Loyalty.” I guess it’s a hallmark of shoegaze to do this, and it’s expected, but it might be more striking album-wise to fit in a cut or two where the volume and urgency remained constant throughout. Or where the chorus or song ending actually took things down a notch. “Halloween” and “New Years Kiss” manage the former approach, where the song endings don’t feel as epic. Also, these songs give drummer Matt Davis room for some percussive flourishes. His use of shakers and some sort of bells add welcome, unusual touches.

I imagine that Sun Come Undone could become a hit if it gets to the right audiences. Its combination of sweet, airy vocals and effects-laden guitar work may be the staples of Lush-like shoegaze but Thrushes does it very well and with enough of its own personality to make this CD a winner.