Shocking Pinks

Guilt Mirrors

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AllMusic Review by

Shocking Pinks' mix of lo-fi indie pop and electronics arrived a few years before chillwave became a household word, and the fact that Nick Harte was largely absent during the years that style peaked only added to the feeling that he was ahead of his time. It took him seven years to follow Shocking Pinks' 2007 self-titled album (which was compiled from two albums released in 2005), but Guilt Mirrors ends this musical drought with a deluge inspired by an earthquake. A triple album crafted during and inspired by the 2011 earthquake that devastated Harte's hometown of Christchurch, New Zealand, Guilt Mirrors is a murky and mercurial reflection of life after a disaster. Harte wrote and recorded these songs in near isolation, and he uses the album's sprawling length to fully express all the different sounds -- dream pop, synth pop, indie, and dance -- he condensed in his earlier work. The more experimental pieces that make up Guilt Mirrors' connective tissue convey subtle and varied emotional nuances: "LV VS SX" stretches breathy vocals and backward beats into a 16-minute dialogue between romance and lust that remains compelling and transporting for the duration, while "Love Projection"'s rattling dance beat and eerie synths make falling in love seem like an accident waiting to happen. These tracks leave plenty of space between the pop songs, which are strewn across Guilt Mirrors in a way that suggests it's the exploded remains of a more traditional album. Harte gets more daring than ever before on more immediate songs such as "DOUBLEVISIONVERSION"'s cavernous synth pop and the longing "Keep Dreaming," where the bittersweet melody barely avoids being swallowed by abrasive drums. Similarly, he contrasts gorgeous, heartbroken moments like "St. Louis" with disturbing ones like "Hospital Garden," in which Harte sings about "strangling a stranger/until they can't breathe" with unnerving detachment. In an equally perverse fashion, the songs that sound most like quintessential Shocking Pinks don't show up until Guilt Mirrors' last third. "A Million Times" and "Chorus Girls" are just as shambling and winsome as before, but not completely unscathed: "B&B" stands for "bloody and battered," while Harte sings the praises of destruction on "Out of Town Girl" over what sounds like the ruins of the Velvet Underground's "Sunday Morning." There are enough of these damaged pop songs to fill their own album, but Guilt Mirrors is all about the fragmented, dreamlike experience. The juxtaposition of "BEYOND DREAMS" and "Hardfuck [Tristen R. Deschain Remix]" throws listeners from the clouds onto the dancefloor, capturing the odd ways time moves -- or doesn't -- during a crisis. Despite the album's daunting length, Harte rewards listeners with some of his most affecting and expressive music yet. Ultimately, Guilt Mirrors feels like a journal of enduring, and surviving, many kinds of aftermaths.

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