Three years after their 2012 debut, Nebraskan electro-pop band Icky Blossoms return with another mood-heavy set of darkly danceable tracks. Working this time with hometown friend and past collaborator Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, Man Man, First Aid Kit) as producer, the trio of Sarah Bohling, Nik Fackler, and Derek Pressnall headed into Omaha's ARC Studios to craft their sophomore effort Mask. If their self-titled debut seemed a bit tentative at times, Mask finds them owning their brooding, synth-heavy sound with a newfound command. The beats hit harder, the melodies are more succinct, and much of the material feels more directed toward the pop end of the spectrum. Like the '80's aesthetic that seems to have inspired much of their sound, everything feels bigger. Lead single "In Folds" is a midtempo jam with a frenetic bassline, shimmering textures, and a strong vocal melody reminiscent of early School of Seven Bells. Songs like the dreamy, guitar-led "Want You So Bad" and the inventive, chopped-up ballad "Away from You" show Icky Blossoms' expanded range, while the excellent "Wait" is simply a great pop song with a tender heart and wide scope. One thing they've left behind on Mask is their sense of humor. Playful tracks like "Babes" and "Sex to the Devil" that spiced up their debut with their deadpan delivery, have, for the most part, been replaced by more earnest and ambitious fare. Also, the inelegant use of compression that causes even the sweeter parts of Mask to slam like a digital hurricane becomes downright distracting, especially on the final two tracks which, consequently, are the most aggressive and harshest mixes on the album. Production missteps aside, there is some great material here and Icky Blossoms' big new sound generally agrees with them.
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AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger