Lab Coast

Lab Coast

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Lab Coast's self-titled release on Faux Discx is essentially an introduction to what an outsider to the Calgary music scene can only assume is one of its best-kept secrets. Since 2008, David Laing and Chris Dadge have been writing catchy lo-fi pop gems, certainly bringing to mind vintage Sebadoh and Guided by Voices (particularly the Tobin Sprout tunes) but occasionally stretching back to '80s college rock groups like the Wipers and Hüsker Dü. The songs themselves are generally bright and chiming yet scruffy, and played at a steady, gently hypnotic tempo. The general haziness and some of the guitar tones point toward psychedelic pop as an influence, but there are no meandering guitar solos or overtly weird freakout moments. They simply stick to clear yet sneaky hooks, and the instrumentation is homespun and offbeat but not too esoteric. Lab Coast collects songs from several albums and EPs released on labels like Night People and Eggy Records. Rather than being a chronological journal of tracks, it's arranged to flow as an album, so the fidelity differs from song to song, but there's a remarkable consistency to the songwriting. Many of the songs are a bit jangly and power pop-leaning, but emotionally they seem more introverted, with lyrics about differences between friends and yearning sensations. While Lab Coast don't have a high recording budget and they aren't virtuosic musicians, they're creative and avoid sounding like slackers. "Walking on Ayr" (the title track to their 2014 LP) accompanies its Bevis Frond-like melody with instruments such as banjo and violin. Even when they go for an open-road Krautrock-ish rhythm, such as on "The Pointe of It All," they still focus on sentimental lyrics and pop song structures rather than just letting the groove ride out. The album is solid from start to finish, and its catchiest songs, such as "Recognize I'm Wrong" and "Really Realize," sound like they would've been college radio and mixtape staples had they been released during the '90s.

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