Stagnant Pools


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Stagnant Pools' debut from 2012, Temporary Room, was a gloomy, noisy shoegaze-meets-Strokes album that managed to overcome the enveloping darkness with the help of very catchy songs and totally committed performances by the Enas brothers, drummer Bryan and guitarist/vocalist Douglass. Their second album, 2014's Geist, is basically the same deal, only this time the songs are even more morose and the sound is even sparser and noisier. The guitar has more bite, there's less layering of sounds, and the duo have dropped almost all the Strokes influences, which mainly means subtracting any songs that have any poppy bounce and taking away most of the new wave atmosphere that crept in from time to time. Basically, the record strips away most of the production work found on the first album -- not that there was much -- and boils it down to the basics of guitar and drums making a racket, with Bryan's clearer and less bathed-in-reverb vocals out in front, shorn of any protection as he spills his very melancholy guts out. It's a daring move since most bands view the second album as a chance to progress or add more cool tricks and fancy stuff to their sound. The brothers move in the opposite direction and it works out well for them, since their core strengths remain intact. Geist's uncompromising sonic attack fits extremely well with the one step beyond brooding vocals and the still surprisingly hooky melodies, the brothers' energy never flags, and they make sure that even though everything is exceedingly grey throughout, there are many shades of it. The brothers make sure to vary the tempo, adjust the levels of guitar noise, and toss in a few uptempo songs like "Dots and Lines" and the almost rollicking title track to help break up the dark clouds a little. Mostly the record hangs around in a melancholy midtempo haze, though, and none the worse for it when the songs are as good, and as emotionally wracked, as "Decoder" and the very Swervedriver-esque "Filed Down." With Geist, Stagnant Pools haven't made any leaps forward, more like a small step backward into something even more interesting and powerful than before.

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