Fight Bite

Emerald Eyes

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Fight Bite's Emerald Eyes is full of lavish dream pop that sounds like it was made with thrift store and toy instruments. The duo swaths stiff drum machine beats and unabashedly cheap-sounding keyboards in piles of reverb and Leanne Macomber's bewitchingly wispy vocals, coming across like Julee Cruise or the Cocteau Twins on a shoestring budget. The way Fight Bite's innocent instrumentation and often minor-key melodies combine is also more than a little reminiscent of Beach House, although they avoid that band's emotional peaks and valleys, opting for gentle melancholy instead. However, Emerald Eyes has plenty of heartbroken songs, including the standout "Swissex Lover." Equal parts woozy and dramatic, the chorus "I'm sure that I will never never love again" would be melodramatic if the song didn't sound so misty and Macomber and Jeff Louis III's singing wasn't so resigned.

Most of Emerald Eyes plays like a soothing murmur, letting textures drift across melodies and placing atmosphere above immediacy. "Strings"' blankets of vocals and synths cover any harsh edges the song might have had, along with most of its words, but that almost tangible lushness is so appealing that it doesn't need to be conventionally catchy. But while Emerald Eyes' muffled sound takes Fight Bite even further into the clouds, sometimes this obscures just how well-written their songs are, as on "Widow's Peak," which buries its hooks and rhythms in reverb and hiss. This audio fog rolls away on brisker, more overtly pop songs like "Age of Faith" and "Small Wonder," that offer a refreshing change from the rest of the album's sleepy softness. It's tempting to want Fight Bite to tiptoe out of the ether -- or at least get a bigger recording budget -- next time around, but Emerald Eyes is an often enchanting debut that defines the band's sound and also leaves plenty of room to expand on it.

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