Social Studies


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The second album by Social Studies finds the Bay Area quintet really coming into its own with its sound; while the inspirations from a range of earlier art/indie rock efforts are clear, what's especially striking throughout is how the band sounds assured and confident in its own present voice. Starting with sparkling keyboards and a strong, clean guitar line, "Delicate Hands" is a fantastic statement of purpose, something that vocalist Natalia Rogovin's strong tone further emphasizes -- the sense of building on the strength of female-fronted and -led bands from the great wave of early-'80s acts in the U.K. and elsewhere is paramount, and the nicely varied and ominous but not overbearing rhythms add to it. Yet at the same time, the nervous keyboard twists and sudden drum breaks on the bluesy "Terracur" feel like something very 21st century, a fallout from the possibilities of hyperactive production and emphasis on space, while "Think of the Sea" mixes a big, slow groove in the chorus with a vocal tone from Rogovin that rivals that of Insides' Kirsty Yates at her best. The rumbling "Away for the Weekend," with the guitar as rhythm addition stabbing through strong vocals, builds up and up to a dramatic end, while similarly, "You Still Laughing" transforms with a striking swing and stomp in the chorus that all comes together beautifully in the final verse. Developer feels like the work of a group constantly pulling new rabbits out of hats just as things seem to have peaked, which can only be promising for their future work.

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