Release Date: Apr 29, 2016
Record label: Run for Cover Records
Stirring stuff... There’s no doubt that much of the attention that Michigan’s Pity Sex have received is because of their eyebrow-raising name. Yet, the buzz that surrounded their 2013 debut, ‘Feast Of Love’, was entirely justified, and this is a worthy follow-up.Its 12 sultry, sumptuous songs see Brennan Greaves and Britty Drake swap turns singing over a wash of fuzzy, forlorn guitars – ‘Burden You’ and ‘Nothing Rips Through Me’ are like distant memories that never quite go away but are never fully-formed either, while ‘Wappen Beggars’ closes the album with a blast of wistful yet powerful longing that both eviscerates and emboldens.
Like their 2013 debut Feast of Love, Pity Sex's White Hot Moon is all delivered through the dorm-quaking filter of '80s-glancing, fuzz-friendly indie rock, but as it lyrically establishes itself as a nuanced contemporary product less than 20 seconds in, that's the extent of its borrowed nostalgia. Under the omnipresent, telescopic spotlight of its titular celestial mirror, Pity Sex's sophomore LP lifts the veil on two separate loner-types absorbed in their isolation: one is chasing artificial connection, licking touchscreen glass while @mentioning TV personalities and begging for moon-lit hook-ups; the other is an overly sentimental romantic refusing to wash off the smell of the last brush they had with their crush. This is "A Satisfactory World for Reasonable People," the tracklisting says, but by the end of the first track, our heroes agree they're "dancing in a dream.
Like the act from which they derive their name, Pity Sex are both thrilling and crushingly sad. On one hand, the Michigan quartet delights in grinding out some of the heaviest riffs this side of Dinosaur, Jr. On the other, it’s difficult to imagine them taking delight in anything, so complete is the sense of melancholia they’ve inherited from The Smiths and the Sarah Records-style despair pop that sprang up in their wake.
Ever since the style began, shoegaze bands have followed a predictable career trajectory. Make a noisy EP that threatens to blow speakers, follow it with a slightly more under-control album that focuses more on songs than it does sound, then on album two (if they get that far) sand off all the rough edges in favor of a slick, professional rock presentation. Pity Sex made good on the first two, but they fail on the third.
Feast of Love was a pretty divisive album. If you're into melodic shoe-gaze and catchy lo-fi anthems, then it would have been up your alley. Drenched in reverb, there was something about the shimmery and twinkling nature of the band that made them more than wispy dream-pop. They did it with a hardened rock edge.
For the surprising influence that it wields today, second-wave emo was not without its shortcomings. While the movement’s largely male figureheads were more than happy to detail the emotional harm they suffered in relationships—usually at the hands of women—their avoidance of the topic of sex was near puritanical. Arriving nearly twenty years after the fact, Ann Arbor’s Pity Sex felt like something of a corrective.
Michigan shoegazers Pity Sex have outgrown the high melodrama of their emo-tinged 2012 EP Dark World. Their latest finishes a turn towards dispassionate Nineties alt rock nostalgia that began with their soupy 2013 debut, Feast of Love. The band has never sounded so desolate, or more distinctly themselves. Comparisons to My Bloody Valentine abound, Pity Sex offer a rather clean-shaven take on the old fuzz-rock sound, occasionally betraying their roots with a rogue pop-punk rhythm here and there.
A wise person once said, “Same s**t, different day.” For Ann Arbor’s chronically morose Pity Sex, this day is spent outdoors. On their ’90s-shoegaze-mining debut, 2013’s Feast of Love, the farthest the band would look was to the person next to them — generally a withholding lover (“Drown Me Out,” “Wind Up”). Now, on their sophomore record, White Hot Moon, the doe-eyed foursome widen their lyrical scope, weaving metaphors out of the space beyond their bedrooms’ walls.
Feeling sorry for yourself can be incredibly cathartic. Pity Sex’s brand of lo-fi, buzzy guitar pop (slot them somewhere between Yo La Tengo and My Bloody Valentine) is so great at encapsulating this soothing nature of wallowing self-indulgence, they decided to stick to their guns and make their second album, ‘White Hot Moon’, take the same traits as their 2013 debut. But what they lack in stylistic departures they gain in retaining comforting signature tricks.
What I remember most in Pity Sex songs are the moments. For most other music, there’s a riff, or a lyric, or some sort of hook that lingers. On White Hot Moon, it’s all moments: the kick-in after the intro on “Bonhomie”. when the guitars on “What Might Soothe You” drop out for a verse, or reaching fuzz critical mass on “Wappen Beggars”.
Our latest installment of Quick Takes may be up a little bit later than usual, but bear with us - with so many surprise releases, from Radiohead to James Blake to Drake, we've been just as overwhelmed as all of you trying to keep up. But that doesn't stop us from acknowledging some records that we ….