[sic] Magazine

Gauntlet Hair – Stills

Here’s a thought. Does the reviewing community contribute to second-album syndrome (or sophomore slump) as much as the lacklustre efforts of certain artists themselves? By album number two, you’re usually less inclined to give benefit of the doubt and, all too often, you’ve moved on pastures newer. It’s fair to say then that in a lot cases it takes something special to ignite the attention afresh.

For all its positives, Stills is likely to fall victim to this school of thinking and that’s if it isn’t first accused of more traditional failings. So, while the single “Human Nature”, for example, sets about its poppy take on classic J&MC structure via solid drum stutters and mid-distance synth-drone and “Heave” marries noise-pop and punk-funk to sound like the follow-up to “Bandages” that Hot Hot Heat wished they’d released, you’re less inclined to fixate on the middling merit that resides in outings like the Goth/noise/pop hybrid “Spew”.

With all this talk of darkness you’d be forgiven at this point for assuming Andy Rauworth and Craig Nice had pulled somewhat of a U-turn since their largely psyche-pop leaning debut. The pair’s Animal Collective obsession does nevertheless remain intact on what is a really rather varied – in both style and quality – follow-up. Both “New To It” and “G.I.D” house such concessions, the former the sort of slow funk that Noah Lennox presumably plays when he wants to get down, the latter a witchy wanderer of cavernous bass culture played at too few revolutions-per-minute. And it seems that dragging tempos are a theme this time around, the half-arsed 80s pop jam “Bad Apple” just about surviving a brush with mediocrity thanks to a sufficiently weird squelch, “Simple” abusing white funk as a tape deck might torturously savour dining out on some unfortunate content.

The final track – a disorientating affair akin to Trent Reznor remixing The Horrors – is called “Waste Your Art” and it’s tempting to use this critical gimme as a launch-pad for a closing discussion on Gauntlet Hair doing the very same on Stills when they clearly possess promise enough to be achieving more, but then you question which of the opening arguments is leading you towards this conclusion. Under thorough analysis, it’s perhaps telling that Stills seems to fit into both unenviable camps.

Advised downloads: “Heave” and “Human Nature”.

~Stills is released 15th July 2013 on Dead Oceans .~

[sic] review: Gauntlet Hair – Gauntlet Hair

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