Valleys

Are You Going to Stand There and Talk Weird All Night?

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    8
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Valleys' first album, Sometimes Water Kills People, had a bleak sound that mixed stark acoustic guitars and electronics with seriously moody songcraft. On their second album, Are You Going to Stand There and Talk Weird All Night, the duo of Matilda Perks & Marc St. Louis trade the acoustic guitars for heavily processed electrics, bulk up the arrangements with a fuller array of keys, and keep the bleakness, only now it feels like epic heartache instead of tiny tears. There's a heaviness to the album that's hard to penetrate at times; the Wall of Sound is like a cold, grey mist that's hard to shake even when you get inside and start to warm up. The synths are murky and laid on thickly, the guitars are smeared with distortion and effects, and the whole thing is coated in enough reverb and echo that even Phil Spector would think twice about the levels. Albums with a sound so monochromatic and insular often feel claustrophobic, and a little boring, thanks to the lack of variation and the overarching concern with maintaining the dark mood. Luckily, Valleys have a couple things in their favor that keep Talk Weird from traveling too far down that path. First of all, their songs are very strong, with warm hearts beating underneath their icy exteriors. And despite being desperately melancholy and blue, Perks and St. Louis' writing features nicely hooky choruses and thoughtful but not mopey lyrics, and along the way they drop a couple of modern-day synth pop gems: "Absolutely Everything All the Time" has the feel of the kind of song that would be playing in a John Hughes movie when Molly Ringwald finally hooks up with the guy of her dreams, "See the Moon" is a midtempo, high-drama convergence of blippy synth pop and grinding shoegaze noise that M83 should take a listen to for pointers. Along with the advanced songcraft, there's also more than enough variation within the overall sound to keep things interesting as they change up guitar sounds, keep a close watch over the dynamics from song to song, and give many tracks a propulsive rhythmic underpinning that keeps things moving and helps keep the fog from settling in completely. Add to that the nice way Perks' airy vocals float over the waves of despair on the songs she sings and it's clear that the band know how to create a sound and feel that's fully three dimensional. Are You Going to Stand There and Talk Weird All Night is a step forward for the band in every way and it shows them to be masters of creating a mood that draws you in and won't let go.

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