Crushed Beaks


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Between their early singles and Scatter, Crushed Beaks made some big strides. The previously guitar-and-drums duo added bassist Scott Bowley to the fold, and recorded the songs that would become their debut album in Rome at film composer Fabio Frizzi's studio. Scatter is a beautiful-sounding album: Matthew Poile's alternately sparkling and storming guitars are never less than alluring -- particularly on the sweeping opener "April" -- while Alex Morris' drums are satisfyingly propulsive. The band's newfound gloss could have dampened its energy, but Crushed Beaks still throw sparks on "Rising Sign," where the churning sounds around Poile as he sings "I'm coming around to the idea, my dear" capture emotions in flux. Likewise, the way they balance shoegaze atmosphere and rambunctious indie rock on "Overgrown" recalls the balancing act Bloc Party performed on Silent Alarm a decade before; while Crushed Beaks are more wound-up than that band, Poile's vocals also recall Kele Okereke (as well as Damon Albarn) at his yelpiest. At its best, Scatter's luxurious noise-pop offers some intriguing contradictions -- not the least of which is how a band who claims horror auteur Dario Argento as an influence sounds so breezy. And, as on "Feelers," they're also capable of anthemic rushes of sound that aren't overbearing. This prowess disguises, and sometimes compensates for, songs that start to sound too familiar by the time "History" arrives. The unfortunately named "Memory Loss" defines Scatter's second half; as pretty as its washy dream pop is, it just doesn't leave much to remember it by. It's notable that one of the album's most distinctive tracks is also one of the band's earliest: "Grim" worked well as a rough-around-the-edges single in 2012 and as something a little more polished here because of its hooky songwriting. While Crushed Beaks' mix of brash and dreamy sounds is promising, it often seems like they're still figuring out how to make it work. As "Litmus" disappears in a vapor trail of echo and reverb, it's hard not to feel like Scatter is the musical equivalent of a blurred photograph, capturing the band between one moment and the next.

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