Release Date: Nov 13, 2012
Record label: Antenna Farm Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
The second album by Social Studies finds the Bay Area quintet really coming into its own with its sound; while the inspirations from a range of earlier art/indie rock efforts are clear, what's especially striking throughout is how the band sounds assured and confident in its own present voice. Starting with sparkling keyboards and a strong, clean guitar line, "Delicate Hands" is a fantastic statement of purpose, something that vocalist Natalia Rogovin's strong tone further emphasizes -- the sense of building on the strength of female-fronted and -led bands from the great wave of early-'80s acts in the U.K. and elsewhere is paramount, and the nicely varied and ominous but not overbearing rhythms add to it.
For some bands, maturity is proportional to mass—in other words, sophistication comes from adorning your songs with string arrangements and complex chord patterns and busy production techniques. For other bands, maturity means stripping things back—chopping away unnecessary frills to arrive at a song’s resonant core. San Francisco quintet Social Studies fall in the latter camp with Developer, their structurally trim and sonically dazzling sophomore LP.
On Developer, Social Studies’ sound may come across as ethereal, even dreamy, but make no mistake, it’s a sound—and a set of beautifully textured, catchy tunes—that’s built on crystal clear elements. There’s the surgical edge from the guitars on “Away For the Weekend”, or their sweet glide on “Delicate Hands”, or the rise and fall of organs over a rock-solid rhythm section on “You Still Laughing”. At each moment, Social Studies exudes a rock-band swagger and muscle but with a keen eye for pop layers and an introspective, melancholy mood that never slips into navel gazing.
“Before, we were rebellious. We fucked with things just because we wanted to push limits and boundaries,” said Social Studies frontlady Natalia Rogovin of 2010’s collection of synth-pop songs, Wind Up Wooden Heart. “Developer is a more adult record. We tried to explore sounds and draw out parts to write more moving and focused songs.” And the sophomore effort from this San Francisco-based five-piece is just what its title suggests: a development from the band’s debut that boasts a more mature sound, thanks in part to producer Eli Crews (tUnE-yArDs) who separated everything a bit: Rogovin’s vocals spring forward, the synths dull down, and the guitar demands its moments.