On their third LP, Walk Me Home, indie pop trio Secret Cities eschew the lo-fi patina of their previous work, turning in a more engaging and certainly more immediate effort. For a project that began with teenaged pen pals Charlie Gokey and Marie Parker trading 4-track tapes back and forth by mail, and then essentially continuing that way for their entire career (none of the band has ever lived in the same city), Secret Cities are one of the more productive long-distance bands out there. Even bands that live together are tough to maintain and it's a testament to both their creativity and tenacity that until Walk Me Home, they had not made an album in the same room together. In 2013, the trio of Gokey, Parker, and Alexander Abnos raised enough funds to book ten days at San Francisco's all-analog Tiny Telephone studios (owned by John Vanderslice) with engineer Jay Pellicci, whom they had met on a previous European tour. The focused energy of recording and writing together live in a room adds a renewed vigor to their '60s-influenced indie-pop and it's apparent throughout the album's 13 songs. The cleaner, warm, analog production brings out the character of both the players and the songs letting the parts breathe even with the occasional lush horn stacks and string parts. From the bouncy, melodic single "Bad Trip" to the easy jangle of "Playing with Fire," there is warmth and cohesion in this collection which seems focused largely on thoughtful, midtempo pop songs. As with their earlier work, there are the classic echoes of the Beach Boys along with Elephant 6-style psych-pop leanings in the vein of the Essex Green. With her winsome, unaffected voice, some of Parker's more lonesome songs like "The Roof" and "It's Always Summer" even recall early Susan Anway-era Magnetic Fields. While Secret Cities haven't drastically altered their retro indie pop style, the chemistry of working more closely together in a finite time and space provides a unity that had previously escaped them, making Walk Me Home their strongest release yet.
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AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger