Brief Candles’ Newhouse EP begins with a false start of the initial drumbeat, a valid indication that this isn’t going to be a polished, pretty record. The punk-ish pace and relative dearth of reverb or fuzz is initially disorienting coming from these dyed-in-the-wool shoegazers, but the bright-eyed energy is invigorating from the get-go. The album flies by and feels unfinished, a hopeful indication that the band isn’t content to rest in its comfort zone just yet.
The bass-driven urgency of opening track “Olympic Sleeper” harks back to Daydream Nation-era Sonic Youth, then downshifts into a dreamy yearning reminiscent of The Appleseed Cast’s post-emo phase. The crisp, warts-and-all production favors the high end, with Kevin Dixon’s grungy guitar melodies and Radish Beats’ thrashed cymbals dominating the tunes—sometimes to the detriment of the vocals, but that’s par for the course. “Dawn Bomb Parties” is the most blatant nod to My Bloody Valentine, but Brief Candles is obviously going for a more visceral, lo-fi approach, sticking with the genre’s trademark guitar sway but avoiding the hazy sumptuousness favored by Kevin Shields.
As a whole, the EP sounds less fussed-over than the band’s 2011 full-length Fractured Days, although it certainly has its catchy moments. The vocal hooks in “While I’m Awake” and “Terry Nation” combined with the far more exuberant drumming and Drew Calvetti’s distinctive, meaty bass lines really make these songs sizzle. The Brief Candles’ style is basically intact, and although there aren’t any tidy, full-fledged pop nuggets like “Sink Or Swim” or “Small Streets,” this record unfolds with a ton of momentum and zero complacency. It may not be a drastic evolution in sound, but it feels like the band is trying to punch its way out of the rigid confines of its own definition.
Brief Candles celebrates the release of Newhouse Friday, October 11, at the Riverwest Public House.