Craft Spells: Nausea (Captured Tracks) Review | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Craft Spells


Captured Tracks

Jun 11, 2014 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

After a couple long years of quietude, Craft Spells (the songwriting vehicle of dream pop scholar Justin Vallesteros) reemerge with Nausea. The album shares a name with a Sartre novel about existential angst. The buoyant synths that once dominated Craft Spells’ sound have been largely swapped out in favor of moody string arrangements and pensive, piano-based compositions. While that might sound like a blueprint of boilerplate growing pains, Nausea is both mellowed and emboldened by actual adult hurt, most evident on the seasick yet crestfallenly pretty title cut.

It’s an unexpectedly ambitious record with enough swelling peaks to avoid the “transitional sophomore album” tag. Instead of the shorthand Smiths and New Order of past releases, there’s a general atmosphere of early-‘80s sophistication, vaguely reminiscent of Japan, Roxy Music’s Avalon, and Aztec Camera. Nausea also glances at ‘60s baroque-psych (“Twirl,” “Breaking the Angle Against the Tide”) and Todd Rundgren-like symphonic layering (“Komorebi”).

Vallesteros is just the kind of innocence-shrouded lullaby-smith who can successfully explore this territory without irony or pretention. Through it all, he still manages to find “pain and joy in laughter,” and his pure pop heart remains the unifying factor on a sonically expansive effort. Nausea represents a smoother transition into maturity than you might expect from a songwriter who once seemed like a potentially talented California emo kid nursing a dangerously narrow Morrissey fixation. (

Author rating: 7/10

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Average reader rating: 10/10


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