May 17, 2012 Web Exclusive
Justin Paul Vallesteros has been studying his Radio Dept. How else do you explain the (very) subtle expansion of sound on Craft Spells' new EP Gallery? Embracing a floaty aesthetic not unlike the Swedish dream pop band's, Vallesteros and his cohorts seem to glide through six tracks, concerning themselves with (in no particular order), girls, loneliness, summer days—or, often, all of the above.
Cloaked in a protective cover of 1980s-influenced nostalgia, Craft Spells takes a more introspective approach to the hazy charm that distinguished debut album Idle Labor. "Introspective" shouldn't be confused with "low-energy." Other than the lackadaisical title track-which meanders without ever truly taking flight-the EP shines with a low-key pep.
Gallery opens with "Still Left With Me," which could double as the most morose Balearic pop tune ever written—Vallesteros pontificates on the uncertainly of love over a bed of bubbly synths and drum machines straight from 1986. "Leave My Shadow" also bows to the same year, its guitar lines ripe for soundtracking the best teen flick Molly Ringwald never made. With all its retro references, Gallery isn't a giant leap forward—more like a well-deserved trip further into Bernard Sumner-approved territory. An utterly pleasant summer diversion. (www.craftspells.tumblr.com)
Author rating: 7/10
Average reader rating: 8/10