Austin – At a glance you could mistake the cover of Communions’ new self-titled EP for a movie poster. Probably that’s because it’s using the same tactics for conveying seriousness that you see in the branding for Blackfish, Short Term 12, and so on: light tint, minimal pallet, a subject unaware that it’s being watched by the camera. Whether intentional or not, it’s an excellent rendering of the changes Communions have undergone since they debuted last year with their Cobblestones EP. On Communions the band produces a gloomy style of post punk tapped from Wire and latter-day Siouxsie Sioux, with crisp production and sparse but rewarding hooks. It’s surprising how well it suits them, given that Cobblestones was more or less the young Danish band’s answer to Wavves and other careless, ultra-fuzzy, beach pop.
Let there be no mistake: Communions hasn’t become humorless or arthouse-y. If that’s what you’re worried about, let “Forget It’s A Dream” put those fears to bed. Situated at the start of the record and opening with echo drums and bass, “Forget It’s A Dream” serves to announce that this will be an 80’s inspired EP. It might portend a disappointing sophomore release if you don’t like mid tempo, hookless, pretty-but-anxious dream pop. But be patient: the chorus crescendos satisfyingly as the title “Forget It’s A Dream” promises, and then some—try not to have your heart warmed when they sing “I can feel the way she spins me around”.
“Forget It’s A Dream” departs most significantly from Cobblestones in its tempo, but the remaining material plays at a more familiar pace. On a longer release this consistency might get a little stale, but for this EP it works—especially since the band seems to thrive at higher speeds. At its worst Communions is merely good, but in a couple of places it produces a high-strung post punk ballad in the vein of “This Modern Love”, though not quite so transcendent. They come close to that mark on “Wherever”, a celebration of jangle guitars, delay effects, and emphatic backbeat. It’s a beautiful cut, but a little too consistently bright to have the same catharsis that Bloc Party mastered between 2005 and 2007.
“Out Of My World” comes even closer, and may be the strongest track on Communions. It’s one of those songs that strings together an effortless series of hooks, that’s engaging and compelling in every part. There’s nothing here that leaves you waiting for the good part again. Its raw strength as a pop song makes production a secondary consideration here. Elsewhere Communions has been eager to let you know what its influences are, but “Out Of My World” is pretty plain. The guitars chime and there’s a synth somewhere in the background, but overall the song is allowed to stand on its own strengths. It’s a fairly significant accomplishment for a young band, and a good closer for their second release.
In fact, if this is your first experience with Communions I would recommend making a double feature of their two EP’s. If not because both are very good, then do it for the real-time look at a talented band still working out identities. And despite the wide gap between their first and second EP’s, you’ll hear a thin thread of continuity: even as the band tries on a headier sound, these songs are still, fundamentally, about the same torrid July romances. And whether they meant to or not, whether they stick with this sound or move on, the band has wound up with something idiosyncratically fun for their second release: a borderline gothic, faux-serious beach record.
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