So this is what the Cure would have sounded like without Robert Smith doing the vocals.
Instead of emulating Smith's deep but emotional baritone, A Shoreline Dream singer Ryan Policky opts for a very smooth but reserved delivery. The higher pitch is contrasted nicely by the whimsical sounds of the guitar, bass, and drums, and it actually sounds better as the disc progresses. Policky's vocals are so uniform throughout this four-song EP, it almost sounds like one extended hum -- somewhat in the vein of Sigur Rós if you'd like a comparison.
Those vocals almost seem inconsequential to the rest of the music though, or at very least, they're relegated to a necessary background addition. Something low-key that further soothes what the gorgeous guitar tones have already begun to. Deciphering the lyrics isn't important, understanding where one line ends and the next begins isn't either, as this band has put the premium on making one constantly moving, constantly flowing body of music. So putting the vocal disparities aside for the duration, what was the Cure all about? Mood. Developing mood carefully though a well-put together arrangement of beauty and dissonance. "Focus the Present" shows how the band can effortlessly mix very subtle dissonant swirls with the cascading beauty that takes most of the attention.
It's not even so much about the songs themselves but how they piece together into one record. Being an EP (though still 23 minutes) they don't have the time to develop anything too grand or epic, but the serene chord progressions and ever quieting pitter-patter of the hi-hats does quite a job making such a calming and special sound. The entire EP does a very good job of lulling you in, and working well with what few tricks it uses. The ability to create something so calming and engrossing at the very same time is not an element a lot of bands can claim to posses, but A Shoreline Dream's penchant for turning one gorgeous strum on the strings into so much more cannot be diminished by its own brevity.
The full-length followup to this EP has been out since last September, and while I haven't yet heard it, I can only imagine how special it will be if it continues in the same right as this short piece of beauty left off.