Seattle Sound

Album of the Month: Craft Spells’ Gallery

We highlight a new local album that belongs in heavy rotation.

By Seth Sommerfeld May 30, 2012

Let the record show that May 2012 was the month of great pseudo-Seattle releases. Arguably the two best “Seattle” records this month come from bands with frontmen who bolted from our fair city for sunny California.

The first of these releases is Fear Fun by Father John Misty (aka former Fleet Foxes drummer Joshua Tillman). The album is a folk-rock trip filled with dark humor and undeniable bravado. While Tillman left Seattle for Los Angeles recently, many Seattle music scenesters still cling to him as their own— almost like jilted lovers who still adore the jerk who dumped them. Then again, the unhinged stage persona he’s developed—vaguely reminiscent of Jim Morrison—is rather irresistible.

The other kinda-Seattle release is Craft Spells’ latest EP Gallery. After moving to Seattle from his native Stockton, Calif. in 2011, singer Justin Paul Vallesteros recently relocated back to Cali (this time, San Francisco). But since the other three members of Craft Spells stuck around Seattle, we’re going to give Gallery the nod as the album of the month.

Gallery finds Craft Spells toeing the line between sounding instantly familiar without feeling derivative. The band’s simultaneously shiny and sad pop tunes trace their lineage back to the British new wave and post-punk of the ‘80s. Instrumentals keep the mood upbeat, bringing to mind Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, but unlike OMD, there’s a lush softness to the keys on tracks like “Burst” that makes them feel much more organic than synthesized. On the flip side, Vallesteros’s vocal cadence on songs like “Warmth” calls to mind Interpol’s Paul Banks (and thereby Joy Division’s Ian Curtis). But it never feels like Vallesteros is aping any of his predecessors; he just happens to have a kindred distant coo.

Gallery goes down easily due to the seemingly effortless way Craft Spells blends its cold vocal indifference with the warm and cheery musical backing. It’s worth giving a spin whether or not it’s officially a Seattle album.

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