Release Date: Aug 6, 2013
Record label: Captured Tracks
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Pop, Shoegaze
After the departure of Amalie Bruun for Ex-Cops, Shaun Kilfoyle did some heavy retooling of Minks' music. Shaking off the college rock murk of By the Hedge, Tides End finds him and the rest of the band polishing their debut album's potential into a set of songs that are poppier and more poetic. Kilfoyle and company dive deeper into the synth-pop/chillwave elements they flirted with on their debut; this focus on keyboards feels effortless thanks to producer Mark Verbos, who spent years immersed in Berlin's thriving dance music scene.
Tides End may come as somewhat of a shock to those who’ve been following Sonny Kilfoyle’s MINKS project since succumbing to the bittersweet charm of past songs like “Funeral Song,” “Ophelia,” and “Cemetery Rain,” people who were also possibly waiting, hoping, for yet another album full of gothic indie pop in the vein of kindred precedents such as Felt, The Smiths, The Field Mice, and an earlier Cure circa Seventeen Seconds and Faith. But it’s been nearly three years since By The Hedge, and time changes everything… right? Upon first listen, the new songs do sound like a clean departure from the previous album, but as soon as the mid-80s bass throbs, echoing guitars, and synths meet Sonny Kilfoyle’s somber vocals and melody on “Everything’s Fine,” which follows up shock opener “Romans,” it all makes a little more sense: as much as Kilfoyle paid homage to abrasive punk turning into indie pop — think after Beat Happening but before The Field Mice — melding it with the dark guitar pop stylings of Felt’s Anglo-Americana and post-punk, he’s now shifted his attention from the moody late 70s towards the early-to-mid-80s experimental pop explorations that many of those very same bands ventured on with what came to be called New Wave. It’s almost as if “Romans,” probably the most distinctly retro-electronic track here, was made the opener to immediately establish a break from past material, providing a distinct opener that would still ease into a relatively more recognizable sound aesthetic.
As Minks, Shaun "Sonny" Kilfoyle has spent most of his time in the band working with various friends. In 2011, he released his debut album, By the Hedge, a dark collection of post-punk-tinged pop that fell in line nicely with the rest of his peers on Captured Tracks. Uprooting from Brooklyn to Long Island, Kilfoyle chose to make Minks into a one-man project for full-length number two.
When Captured Tracks achieved wider recognition a few years back, Minks were perhaps the US indie label’s archetypal act. Fuzzy-edged, romantic swooners who mined 1980s Britain for inspiration, Minks – formed in New York, now based in Long Island – take sideways steps into retro synth-pop on second album ‘Tides End’. Over drum machines and wispy electro pulses, Sonny Kilfoyle intones such Morrissey-sour quips as “Happy birthday/Can I poison your drink?”.
A month after Sean Kilfoyle's debut LP as Minks-- By the Hedge-- earned comparisons to shoegaze staples like early Creation Records releases, the Brooklyn-based musician was already expressing a desire to move away from his "wall of sound" toward something more direct. Two years later, Kilfoyle enlisted producer Mark Verbos, an ex-pat of the Berlin electronic and techno scene, to flesh out songs Kilfoyle sketched at the East End of Long Island, where he had relocated to break a writer's block. The resulting Tides End follows a trajectory similar to Captured Tracks label mate Wild Nothing's Empty Estate EP, trading vaporous guitars and indiscernible words for the bright, perky lines of new synthesizers and more defined song structures.
Well, Minks have bucked up a bit. Sonny Kilfoyle’s debut album By The Hedge was a series of vague tracks that were like The Pastels in their drippiest and most depressed moments: seemingly aiming to capture the rainy bleakness of ’80s Britain, but instead just sort of meandering aimlessly about like a lost wet puppy. Next to it, Kilfoyle’s sophomore record looks positively disco.
To cure a bout of writer's block, Minks frontman Sonny Kilfoyle left New York City for Long Island, the same peaceful place that attracted Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol and John Steinbeck before him. To eschew outsider musical influences, Kilfoyle listened only to Seal and Simply Red while recording. When he hit an impasse, he would exercise his brain with Oblique Strategies.
Two years removed from debut LP By the Hedge, Minks frontman/songwriter Sonny Kilfoyle has discovered a more direct route to share his distant new wave echoes. Structure was an afterthought on this original sonic collage. Tracks like “Out Of Tune” and “Our Ritual” spiral into folksy, distorted ambiance, with Kilfoyle’s woeful vocals the sole anchor before plummeting through enchanting dreamwave.
“Forget about weekdays in 1982/ You know you don’t see the same things we do,” sings MINKS’ Sonny Kilfoyle in the sunny “Weekenders.” This summery chorus is also a warning that rolls in like a rain cloud: Nostalgia can only go so far. Despite so many reminders of the past, we’re stuck with the present. It’s a tension that runs through “Tides End” — which he wrote in the East End of Long Island — and it plays well against its slack, throwback pop.