Pretty & Nice are not an easy band to get a handle on. Some pin their sound as Cocteau meets Costello; Pitchfork was quick to slap a New Wave label on their last LP, Get Young, and trot out XTC, the Jam, and DEVO references faster than you could say “Science Friction.” Others have struggled to understand the downshift-without-the-clutch refrains that typify their songs and find comfort in drawing a comparison with Of Montreal. Sometimes even the Shins get name checked. There is some degree of truthiness in these contextualizations, but band comparison pandaemonium is not the way to shepherd a listener’s ears to a newer, greener frontier of undiscovered pop music. Perk up young buffalo, lush pastures are upon us: the new Pretty & Nice EP, Us You All We, will bring about an entente among head scratching music scribblers, and provide plenty to chew on for the rest of us. Open a friendly ear and let the music stream.
Us You All We is the most harmonious Pretty & Nice release to date. The production-forward experimentation that has characterized their recorded career has coalesced into a more pure, more measured, and ultimately more focused vision of pop music. We still find thick tapestries of guitar fizz, note-in-the-margin synth iambs, modulated vibraphones from outer space, and a spectrum of drum sounds that range from the dead thump of a well-oiled baseball mitt to the flint and tinsel tic-tac of chopsticks on notebook paper, but instead of fighting for the spotlight or pushing the listener away from the song, these elements are meticulously arranged to support one another and invite second listens. The leaps from one compositional idea to the next are not jarring or clever-seeming so much as pleasantly surprising, whimsical, and often wonder-filled. The same is true of the vocals. Lewis and Mendicino aren’t call-and-response bickering with one another, or even respectfully taking turns at the mic; this time around they’re working together and telling the same story. This is Pretty & Nice’s most unified vision. It’s a welcome evolution for long-time fans and a perfect, succinct starting point for the new and curious.
A collaborative, hopeful spirit is the molten stuff at the core of Us You All We’s songwriting. These are four inspired, joyful tracks that stomp through the underbrush of an imagined landscape searching for the sunbeams of spring. Even on the post-apocalyptic “Hyena” (which culminates in medical experimentation!), the protagonist finds comfort in dire times by singing a Billy Joel song to himself. On “Dan’s Heart” we encounter all the creatures of the natural world. And to mention first things last, EP Opener “Hibernate” is more about emerging from a dormant time than entering into one. In this new waking life we are asked to check our rational tendencies at the mouth of the cave and prepare ourselves for a journey to the sky, where all beings hover in diamond-like refraction. Glorious, and an apt metaphor for Pretty & Nice.
Guest post by: Scott Lindenbaum and Grace Converse
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