Grass Stains & Novocaine

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Grass Stains & Novocaine Review

by Tim Sendra

On San Francisco band Seablite's debut album Grass Stains & Novocaine, the quartet dig deep into the tropes of dream pop; the album is bathed in reverb-hazed guitars, dreamy vocal harmonies, and diffuse hooks. They also don't miss many shoegaze tricks; the dynamic shifts, high-speed drum fills, and guitar pedal overload come right out of the My Bloody Valentine playbook. They even take the occasional detour into C-86-style crash pop along the way. It could have been just an exercise in lazy nostalgia, but it turns out far, far better than that. The band add enough energy and spirit to the basic template that they end up going far beyond rote duplication on a record that would fit easily on a shelf between Drop Nineteens and Tiger Trap, to name two worthy examples. They bring passion and skill to the songs with every member adding something special. Lauren Matsui and Galine Tumasyan's vocals are haunting and sweet, ex-Wax Idol Jen Mundy's guitar leads are pretty and evocative, and drummer Andy Pastalaniec drives it home like he's late for dinner. The whole record is top-level dreamgaze, with a few songs standing out as moments where the melodies and music lock together and soar. "Heart Mountain" and "Pillbox" are uptempo examples, the majestic "(He's A) Vacuum Chamber" is the one time the album slows down and folds some Cocteau Twins splendor into the mix, and "House of Papercuts" is a lovely, midtempo, melancholy pop song that Alvvays would steal if they could. Seablite aren't doing anything very new on Grass Stains & Novocaine, but they aren't exactly treading water, either. They imbue the past with the excitement of the present and in the process make an impressive, must-have dreamgaze album.

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