Continuing in the tradition of artists like Sigur Rós and Phil Elverum, Boston area project Gem Club offer soft, intimate ballads built around hushed vocals and expansive, ethereal arrangements featuring orchestral instrumentation. Like their debut EP, Acid & Everything, first-time full-length Breakers takes a "quiet is the new loud" approach, as singer/pianist Christopher Barnes and cello/bells/backing vocals collaborator Kristen Drymala employ silence and space to convey the emotional intensity of Barnes’ simultaneously personal and ambiguous lyrics that toe the line between hope and despair. Together, the two imagine a cavernous, isolated world that invites listeners to stop and let the sounds wash over them. Breakers is at times a challenging listen, but as the band name suggests, jewels lie within. In particular are the title track, driven by minor-key piano and accented with plaintive cello as Barnes observes, "the graceless years are gone"; the delicately thunderous drums and haunted harmonies of "Lands"; and the record’s most fully realized offering, "252," finding Barnes and Drymala’s vocals soaring together and taking turns on harmonies, giving way to momentary rays of sunshine as the chorus swells. As life seems to move at an ever-faster pace and information threatens to overload, Breakers offers an uneasy but welcome respite if we just take the time to listen.
AllMusic Review by Chrysta Cherrie