Release Date: Jan 22, 2013
Record label: Fat Possum
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Pop, Shoegaze
Trapped in rooms of expanding, jagged-nerve guitars, Ex Cops’ Brian Harding and Amalie Bruun stand with lips at the window’s crack and breathe in melody. Across True Hallucinations, Ex Cops’ full-length debut and their first release as a five-piece band, the co-vocalists generate tunefulness so effortlessly that it almost seems like a happy industrial byproduct of the flushed-out sound whorling away behind them. But the album’s true star is producer John Siket, who smothers the group in narcotic folds of compression; when the band build to bursting, as they do in lead single “James,” they sound as if they’re playing their way out of an old Zenith television set.
Brooklyn's Ex Cops differentiate themselves from legions of neo-shoegaze acts on their debut LP True Hallucinations, thanks in large part to one key strength—intuitively gorgeous harmonizing. Recalling The Vaselines at their finest, singer/guitarist Brian Harding and singer/keyboardist Amalie Bruun's vocals bleed together effortlessly, adroitly complementing this superb take on early '90s dream pop. .
Judging from the way they weave together sounds and styles from various eras into one tuneful, dreamily sweet package on their debut album True Hallucinations, one can only assume Ex Cops are head-of-the-class-level students of pop music history. A casual trip through the record’s 11 songs reveals influences taken from some of the most inspired and inspiring music of the past 50 years, from the jaunty punch of the Velvet Underground at their poppiest and the choppy strum of Flying Nun bands like the Bats, to the gauzy haze of '90s shoegaze and synthy atmospheres of Factory Records -- they only borrow from the best. Along with these classic touchstones of modern indie rock, the group throws in some nice bits of '50s pop (on the utterly charming “Spring Break (Birthday Song)”) some gritty Spacemen 3 style psych (“Jazz & Information”), and early Feelies-sounding jangle (“Billy Pressley”) to keep the trainspotters on their toes.
Ex Cops are a curious signing for Manhattan record store Other Music's new label. Where the shop has developed an international reputation for its expertly curated selection of obscure psychedelia, electronica, cult hero reissues, and other esoterica from around the world, Ex Cops are as traditional an indie-pop act as they come; one that, in the past month alone, has issued faithful covers of both a Paul McCartney holiday standard and a classic Replacements video. But as you delve into the band's debut, True Hallucinations, the alliance with Other Music starts to make more sense: Ex Cops approach their music as if they were friendly record-store clerks, using a familiar sound as a starting point before digging further back and helping you connect the dots to what came before it.
New York’s Ex Cops play Russian roulette with a cartridge of sounds on True Hallucinations, their full-length debut that never lingers and often satisfies on repeat listens. Whether it’s the dreamy arts and crafts work of Pains of Being Pure at Heart (“Ken”), the jangly indie pop of the late Girls (“James”), the bluesy space sounds of Spiritualized (“Jazz & Information”), the whispered cues of Teenage Fanclub (“Spring Break (Birthday Song)”), or the tender shades of Velvet Underground (“Broken Chinese Chairz”), founding members Brian Harding (formerly of Hymns) and Amalie Bruun (yada yada yada of Minks) are always wandering — but that’s a good thing. Because dream pop has become such a tired genre as of late, it’s refreshing to hear a refreshing take on a sound that’s become anything but refreshing.
Anyone familiar with Brian Harding or Amalie Bruun’s previous work might be surprised by the direction they’ve taken with their latest project, Ex Cops. Throughout True Hallucinations, the debut from this Brooklyn duo, Harding and Bruun have proven themselves adept at creating infectious indie pop songs. Their songs are not only immediately appealing, but fluent in the indie pop and dream pop classics, and do their best to imitate their influences.