Remember Craft Spells? The project of Stockton/S.F. songwriter Justin Vallesteros made a few waves here in Northern California back in 2010-2011 with his debut album, Idle Labor, and an EP called Gallery -- as well as live dates opening for people like the Soft Moon. Well he's back, sort of. After a disappointing stint in S.F., Vallesteros holed up in his parents' house in Lathrop, Calif., (outside of Manteca) and went quiet for two years, studying piano and unplugging from the Internet. Then, with a handful of demos, he went to Seattle to record an album with a full band that included plenty of strings. The result is Nausea, a new album whose first single, "Breaking the Angle Against the Tide," shows the kind of maturity and leap in development that isolation can sometimes bring. Its a sighing, wistful pop tune led by an arching electric guitar riff, but with gorgeous flurries of (real!) strings in there -- melodies and counter-melodies that linger happily in your head.
Vallesteros' vocals aren't very strong -- it feels a little like he's hiding his voice here, singing slightly under his breath -- but the rest of the tune is so pretty that's easy to overlook. You can stream and download "Breaking the Angle Against the Tide" below. Nausea is out on Captured Tracks June 10.
The press materials for this song include this interesting little tidbit about Vallesteros' time in S.F., which we're including for obvious reasons:
Since last on the radar, Justin moved to San Francisco to find a niche in the Bay Area music scene. This proved difficult within the regarded garage rock scene and insular DJ night crowds currently dominating the area's music community. Here, Justin fell into a slump, creatively. With a severe bout of writer's block he retreated to his parent's house in Lathrop, CA. Away from the city, he put down his guitar for a full year in favor of properly training himself on piano, the instrument from which all the tracks for Nausea were written.