The Pact

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Recorded in their adopted base of Los Angeles after several years in Brooklyn, one-time Sarah Lawrence College music students Slothrust decided they wanted to push their sound forward on their fourth studio album The Pact. They brought in producer Billy Bush, whose past work (of particular interest to vocalist/songwriter Leah Wellbaum) includes Garbage. It feels, overall, like it has bigger production than their previous works, one that combines grunge, rock opera, and slicker pop within a mercurial track list that nonetheless sounds uniquely Slothrust. That may be because the band's music has always been full of contrasting elements -- they're just a tad more brazen about it here. Perhaps with a wink of acknowledgment, the first track is called "Double Down" and opens with the declaration "I do what I want." A work of anthemic, defiant pop with scuzzy electric guitar riffs and, more unexpectedly, whistling, it's immediately contrasted with the alt-rocker "Peach," which itself opens with a dissonant guitar riff. Later, "For Robin" opts for a more harmonious, jazzy pop replete with piano and horns, while "Planetarium" offers thrashing punk rock fit for the mosh pit. Along the way, some tracks are more stream-of-consciousness by nature, in terms of lyrics and structure. It's not quite as incongruous as all of that sounds, because the songs are uniformly guided by and mixed in favor of Wellbaum's vocals and melodic tendencies, which, despite her crystal-clear vocal tone, always seem rooted in '90s grunge and metal. These types of contrasts and contradictions can be impressive if the songs all stand on their own, and in this respect, the results are mixed. It's a great-sounding album, but ultimately, it falls somewhere between impressive and all over the place.

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