Los Angeles dream-pop/shoegaze outfit Soft Blue Shimmer released their debut album, Heaven Inches Away, a short while ago.
In the band’s interview with From The Intercoms’ Karolyn Jaranilla, guitarist/vocalist Charlie Crowley explained, “So Heaven Inches Away, in terms of the album, encapsulates a lot. It was actually going to be called ‘Hold You In The Warm’ first, then we decided that Heaven Inches Away encapsulated a lot of the themes of the entire album. This idea of something being this close to you, being so close and how hopeful that could feel and how wonderful and sublime, whatever heaven is, being like ‘I can almost touch it,’ it’s right there. But then it also means you still don’t have it and it can be so despairing to live on that line. So you have this beautiful feeling and also desperation and how those two things can live together. It’s meant to be a complex title in that way where it’s both hopeful and horrendous.”
The other two members of the trio are Meredith Ramond (vocals, bass) and Kenzo Cardenas (drums).
Last year, Soft Blue Shimmer dropped their debut EP, Nothing Happens Here, a five-track collection of dream-pop defined by raw edges, which on Heaven Inches Away have been smoothed down and buffed to polished surfaces – the consequence of the band’s natural sonic and personal evolution. In one sense, it’s the simple outcome of the threesome knowing each other better. While in another sense, their music is maturing, becoming more complex and refined.
“Space Heater,” a just over 20-second intro sets the stage for the album – glowing stridently, as if marking the discovery of the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey, and then flowing atop a rolling snare into “Emerald Bells,” a marvelous tune surging with hazy guitars, an oily bassline, and redolent, wistful vocals. The pushing energy of this track infects listeners with cerebral motion and momentum.
Entry points include the measured “Sunpools,” rolling out like a carpet atop Kenzo’s finessed yet visceral drums. Meredith’s voice is both intimate and flavored with nonchalant aromas, drifting on gossamer timbres.
“Swimming lines, straight across / The selfish lines, the kind you draw / Swimming lines straight across.”
Rumbling drums capped by thrumming guitar notes introduce “Cherry-Cola Abyss,” informed by tints of new wave coloration merged with misty, granular dream-pop into blurred walls-of-fuzzy-sound. The last track, “Adore the Distance” begins on Twilight Zone tangs softened by platinum accents, followed by the entry of Meredith’s exquisitely velvety voice.
There’s a different sonic commerce to three of the tracks: “Hold You In The Warm,” “Musubi,” and “Waves At Dume.” It’s not better or worse, it’s just different, as if the band was in a separate emotional space while working on these tracks.
Heaven Inches Away is superb. In fact, it will be on my list of Best Albums of the Year.