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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

CD Review: Baths' 'Cerulean'

Posted By on Tue, Jul 27, 2010 at 1:09 PM

click to enlarge Baths' 'Cerulean'
  • Baths' 'Cerulean'
You've got to be thankful for the hopeless romantics. Without their uninhibited dedication to all things joyous, uplifting, and love-soaked, music wouldn't be anything like it is today. Somehow, these uncynical musicians and producers can turn some of the most jaded, oversexed, post-what-have-you genres into bouts of pop-friendly declarations of love. And whether their heart-on-sleeve sentiments be directed towards life, another person, or an isolated experience, these artists can still speak to us in ways we didn't know we could understand.

Enter Southern California's Will Wiesenfeld, a 21-year-old tunesmith who crafts poignant, beat-centric songs under the name Baths. Similar to how the Postal Service reformatted the rising synth-pop/electroclash scene of the early 2000s to fit the tastes of the more song-oriented indie-rock crowd, Wiesenfeld captures the essence of the testosterone-heavy beat scene he's often grouped with and injects it into the 12 loosely pop-focused songs that make up his heartfelt, lovelorn, and often moving debut album, Cerulean. It's apparent within the initial moments of Baths' record that this will be something more than the patently wonky 'boom-and-slap' and eye-rattling bass of his peers' music, as a chorus of Wiesenfeld's high-register vocals introduces the inviting first song, "Apologetic Shoulder Blades." Most of Cerulean follows suit with strong use of hip-hop-inspired rhythms and earnest vocals and lyrics (whether from the producer himself or samples he's discovered) which provide the backbone for Baths' greatest asset: melody.

Songs like the piano-driven "♥," the brilliantly understated "Rain Smell," and Cerulean's beautiful, subtly catchy closing number "Departure" pull so hard at your heartstrings that they're likely to break if you don't give in. Other tunes from the album boast an uplifting, buoyant aesthetic, like the stuttering funk of "Lovely Bloodflow," the playful, child-like romp of "Aminals," and the introverted pop inclinations of "Hall." But no matter what attitude Wiesenfeld delivers in his music, it comes packaged with inspired, memorable melodic elements courtesy of the producer's knowledgeable use of synths, vocals, live instruments, and ambient field recordings. 

Cerulean leaves room for few gripes. The flow of the tracklist sometimes feels a bit abrupt, Wiesenfeld's voice occasionally nears the grating falsetto of the likes of Passion Pit, and the unabashedly upbeat "Indoorsy" shakily skates the line of annoying exuberance. But these aren't enough to detract from the overall joy of Baths' debut. Though it isn't The Postal Service's Give Up, Wiesenfeld's new record could just as easily bridge the gap between two scenes: the hip-hop-obsessed head-nodders and the hook-hungry indie-pop set. And we'd have nothing more to thank than his considerable musical talents and unwavering romanticism.

Baths performs this Saturday, July 31 at The Rickshaw Stop.

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Patric Fallon


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