Surprise releases are often some of the best you'll hear. Now, I was previously a fan of Desert City Soundtrack, enjoying both Funeral Car and Contents Of Distraction, but until literally two weeks ago I had no idea that the band was coming out with something new. Luckily, I did find out, and here I sit writing the review for their newest and best output yet, Perfect Addiction.
Taking cues from the morose, mood-shifting arrangements of the Black Heart Procession, DCS use a variety of tempos and instruments to get their songs across. While the band is only a trio, they're able to seamlessly and eerily implement organs, pianos, and a trumpet to create a full sound integration that's often reserved for bands with at least 4 members. Regardless, listening to any of the twelve songs would never lead you to believe those tracks were created by a mere trio. All twelve blend incredibly well, making for one sweeping experience.
Most fans will note this as a bit of a departure from the style the band used to exemplify. Long gone are the anguished vocals and crunching post-hardcore guitars that were a staple of their studio albums and live shows just the same, and in their place are the somber, low-key moments that populate this most recent release. With a change of drummer and a change of style, DCS exponentially reap the benefits, as they're able to pull off the style just as well as their contemporaries in Three Mile Pilot and the Black Heart Procession. The band is still able to let loose with squalling guitars and strong vocals as the closing moments of "Let's Throw Knives" would attest to. Sporadic loud moments aside, for the most part, they keep things to a mellow, emotional pace. The guitars hold steady at a low hum while singer Matt Carrillo effortlessly guides the listener through his subtle vocal nuances. It's all about tone with these guys, and an eerie one is set right from the gate. The delicate piano keystrokes lay a beautiful base for songs like "Batteries" where Carrillo's wistful vocal approach can really take flight, as he sings "Now it may stain his every thought, but it's not what she'd want at all."
"Playing The Martyr" is the closest that Desert City come to returning to their heavier, former sound, and it's also one of the strongest tracks on the album, with tense, wiry chord progressions and intertwining piano that offer a great contrast to the rising volume of the track. While I do appreciate the contrast, and the band's songwriting ability, and the fact that they incorporate both types of sounds, it just feels the band is better suited with the direction they've taken on this album. They're still extremely tight, and extremely sound musicians, but the eerie, subdued grooves of most of these songs are spectacular. "No Signal" shows some heavy organ usage that when added to the already potent guitar and drum combination makes it all the better.
Deep Elm continues to put out spectacular albums, and Desert City Soundtrack's latest is absolutely no exception. From the gorgeous vocals of Carrillo in "Whatever The Cost" to the harsher moments in the aforementioned "Playing The Martyr," it all gels into one solid package. Morose, driving, eerie, rhythmic, this three-piece has created a record that defies the number of members they have. Not one to miss.