Release Date: Nov 1, 2011
Record label: Captured Tracks
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Neo-Psychedelia, Shoegaze
I often return to this line from Simon Reynolds' Retromania: "Unlike digital formats, analogue degrades through overuse: each listener kills the sound she loves. " There's a certain comfort in that kind of reciprocity, and anyone who's ever accidentally reset the listening history on their iTunes library and felt like they'd wiped a part of their identity clean is familiar with the digital world's maddening indifference to our affection. With that observation, Reynolds hits on the unifying and fundamentally human allure of chillwave, lo-fi, smear-pop, and any other kind of contemporary music that makes a conscious choice in an Auto-Tuned world to sound less than pristine.
“Hello Cleveland! We are BLOUSE and tonight we’re gonna rock you, erm, tonight”. As monikers go, Blouse isn’t going to strike fear into the souls of doting parents or incite knee-jerk holy joes’ to instigate emergency meetings down at the town hall before commandeering Billy Bob’s steamroller to destroy every last trace of this “Surely Satanic” band’s existence. No.
On their self-titled Captured Tracks debut, Portland's Blouse serve up electronic pop that's equally sparkling and dark, yet considerably lighter-feeling than the label's usual fare. However, this distinction doesn't make their music distinctive; Blouse's mix of dreamy-then-abrasive electronics and detached female vocals has been mastered by forebears and contemporaries like Broadcast, Beach House, and To Kill a Petty Bourgeoisie. This isn't to say that the trio has nothing to offer; “Firestarter” opens Blouse with shimmeringly aloof pop that showcases Charlie Hilton's chilled coo to perfection, while “Into Black” adds a strange intimacy and depth to its nostalgia that makes it all the more compelling.
Scenes are different now. Geography doesn’t count for much. No one cares a hoot if a band ‘hails’ from anywhere because we all just hail from the Internet, whether we goddamn well like it or not and everyone and everything just comes from somewhere else and sounds like something gone before. Pop ate itself years ago and now it’s just one big terrible, auto-cannibalistic, bulimic mess and it’s puking itself back up and asking for your recognition.
It’s too bad Blouse didn’t come out with their self-titled debut sooner; at first it seems like the Portland, OR trio is just riding the coattails of other ‘80s-influenced noun bands like College and Desire (and we know they’re the real deal because they were in this year’s hit indie film, Drive). But really, Blouse is the Platonic ideal to which these other artists aspire: the soundtrack to the putative John Hughes movie. Band member and producer Jacob Portrait, who has also produced The Dandy Warhol’s psychedelia and Starfucker’s arcade electronica, cleanly melts post-punk instrumentation with Charlie Hilton’s ethereal vocals.