Mood Rings

VPI Harmony

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Mood Rings opted for a higher-fidelity sound on their debut album VPI Harmony than on Sweater Weather Forever, and the time spent streamlining their approach paid off: the album takes dream pop's hallmarks -- wispy vocals, shimmering guitars, and inventive percussion -- to stylized, euphoric heights that leave a more lasting impression than the work of many similarly gauzy bands. On former single "Pathos y Lagrimas," Will Fussell repeats fragments of desire and heartbreak ("I miss you the best") in a breathy sigh over instrumentation that's swooning nearly as much as he is. It's easy to hear why Mood Rings have been championed by Deerhunter's Bradford Cox, since VPI Harmony often recalls his group at its most feathery and delicate, particularly in the way "Come Lay Down in Lined Arrangements" hovers and crashes and how "Hollow Dye (Defected Crystal)" makes the most of Fussell's shivery falsetto. But making too much of the band's connection to Cox does Mood Rings a disservice, since there are many other facets to their music on these songs. "Minor Slaloms" gives the rhythm section a workout as it moves from frantic, angular pop to trippier passages, while "The Line" puts a surreally glamorous twist on dark '80s synth pop. The band even returns to the more straightforward sound of Sweater Weather Forever on "Promise Me Eternity" and "Get Lost," both of which recall the Smiths and C-86 in their jangly bittersweetness. Songs like these help anchor the album's farther-flung moments, but even the wildest flights of fancy feel more like exploration than dabbling. Held together by its oddly luxurious feel, VPI Harmony blends its many sounds and moods into a remarkable debut.

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