The Slideshow Effect

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The Slideshow Effect refers to a technique that documentary filmmakers use when they zoom in on or pan across still images to add a sense of movement, and it's an apt title for Memoryhouse's debut album. Not just because the group has incorporated film and filmic visuals into their music since the beginning, but because they've zoomed in on a few key elements of their sound. On their early EPs, Memoryhouse decorated their songs with a dreamy ambience that only added to their wistfulness, but here their songs are laid bare, focusing on Denise Nouvion's voice and lyrics and an indie rock sound tinged with an alt-country twang. It's to the band's credit that they didn't just repackage their previously released work for their first album, and in some ways this new approach is more unique, since it seemed that virtually every other band in the early 2010s was a dreamy ambient pop project recorded in someone's bedroom. Unfortunately, though, it often feels like Memoryhouse lost more than they gained with these changes. Nouvion's voice has a nasally, Midwestern drawl that lends it a plainspoken feel, which was a great anchor for the delicate sonic swirls that surrounded her in the band's previous incarnation. However, on The Slideshow Effect, her vocals seem to be on the cusp of being flat, and they're so prominent in these otherwise manicured arrangements that it's hard to miss when they waver. Similarly, the band's stripped approach emphasizes how similar the tempos are from song to song -- which is a shame, since there are several moments that suggest that Memoryhouse is on to something. "Bonfire" sounds just like its title, adding a coziness that warms up the album, while "Old Haunts"' spacey drift acts as a logical bridge between the band's old and new approaches. "Walk with Me" captures what it's like to be alone with someone late at night, feeling like the only two people in the world, before it picks up into fuzzy indie rock, a sound Memoryhouse explores further on "The Kids Were Wrong" and "All Our Wonder," both of which will likely thrill anyone longing for Rilo Kiley's early days. It was brave of Memoryhouse to drastically change their approach on their first full-length, but while The Slideshow Effect has plenty of appealing moments, they don't add up to a satisfying album.

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