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Cranekiss Review

by Heather Phares

By the mid-2010s, the revivals of shoegaze and synth pop had been around for quite a while -- several times longer than the styles' original heydays, in fact -- and sometimes felt overly familiar. However, Tamaryn enlivens both by combining them on Cranekiss, resulting in some of her most arresting music yet. It's quite the departure from the distortion-laden bliss of Waves and Tender New Signs, echoing changes such as her move to New York and the addition of Weekend's Shaun Durkan to her band. Another key collaborator is producer Jorge Elbrecht (also of Violens and Lansing-Dreiden), whose finesse with samples and keyboards lends a retro-futuristic sound, most audaciously on "Softcore," where found sounds from porn websites and excerpts from the film Paris, Texas commingle with winding guitars to make shoegaze's eroticism explicit in more ways than one. Interestingly, Cranekiss' less showy juxtapositions of softness and structure are even more striking, with the album's first three tracks capturing the sensual thrill of the best dream pop and Top 40 singles of the late '80s and early '90s. Sweeping and swooning, "Cranekiss" lives up to its name; "Hands All Over Me" blends caressing synths and pointed funk; and "Last" rivals other widescreen pop auteurs like M83 and White Sea. Meanwhile, the album's more traditionally ethereal second side strengthens Tamaryn's kinship with the Cocteau Twins and contemporaries like Pure Bathing Culture, with songs like "Sugarfix" and "Fade Away Slow" reinvigorating vintage dream pop's glassy lucidity and fondness for gauzy imagery. In all, Cranekiss is a beautiful pop fantasia that finds Tamaryn expressing her music's passion and sensuality in exciting new ways.

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