One of the reasons so many bands have looked to the early '80s for inspiration lately is because the sound of post-punk and new wave—in all its melancholy and dreamy romanticism—can be oddly comforting to people who grew up in that era. In terrifying times, there's nothing like the Pretty In Pink soundtrack to give people hope and make the difficult sound simple. Those songs tell sensitive misfits everywhere that someone knows how they feel.
On Rainer Maria's fifth album, Catastrophe Keeps Us Together, the Wisconsin-born, Brooklyn-based band drapes songs in atmospheric echo while maintaining a steady, urgent beat—all of which provides a stage for Caithlin De Marrais' earnest, fully engaged voice. It's a healing sound, for an album full of apologies and confessions. Songs like the snappy "Clear And True" and the reassuring "Terrified" drop lines like "I'll make it up to you" and "You're so terrified / So am I." And though there are just as many songs about the crash of loss, the album's key song is the opener, "Catastrophe," where De Marrais explains how pain can unite.
Rainer Maria's former Wisconsin neighbors in The Promise Ring—who've partly reconstituted as Maritime—make a similar statement of purpose at the outset of We, The Vehicles. "Calm" is all cascading guitars and pumping beat, over which bandleader Davey von Bohlen sings "We are powerful despite our injuries." Compared to Maritime's ragged debut, Glass Floor, the new record is a fountain of confidence, forgoing its predecessor's fussy arrangements for simple structures and big hooks. It doesn't have the overarching lyrical theme of Rainer Maria's effort, but the pretty guitar-pop sound of songs like "Tearing Up The Oxygen," "People, The Vehicles," and "Young Alumni" forges a peaceful place out of a culture of anxiety.