Memoryhouse – The Slideshow Effect

written by: March 12, 2012
Release Date: Feb. 28, 2012


So maybe it’s raining out, maybe you’re suffering from an existential crisis, or maybe you just want to feel deep in a sort of art-school way. Memoryhouse has you covered. An unlikely team of a photographer and musician who teamed up to make minimalist soundtracks and metamorphosed into a pop band, they specialize in dreamy, nostalgic soundscapes.

They’ve moved leaps and bounds in a very short amount of time. Since their first full length, they’ve cut out almost all of the chaff present on 2010’s The Years EP, and the result is a tighter, more focused, and moderately more poppy sound that’s as good for the casual listener as well as art students with perpetual clouds over their heads.

For a band distinguished by a sort of meandering, dreamy style, there’s an impressive amount of clarity and articulation on display here. Vocals that used to be muted and misty are surprisingly sharp, and there’s some strong lyrical work. The best songs here, like “Walk With Me” manage to be a sort of multidimensional poem, with simple but very vivid lyrics delivered in Denise Nouvion’s dreamy drawl.

Rather than the deluge that was The Years, this Sub Pop debut is the musical equivalent of a Vulcan neck pinch: they’re not expending much energy, but the effect on the listener is impressive. They’ve even managed to work in a nice driving groove on “The Kids Were Wrong,” which is as surprising as it is pleasant, even as Nouvion overlays it with a gripping delivery of, “Go to sleep, nothing’s changing/I’ll be right here by your side.” Dream fufillment? Self delusion? The ambiguous delivery leaves it wonderfully open for interpretation.

If the song suggests a possible direction from the band where their dream pop collides with the more honest, intimate and danceable contributions that twee-pop can offer (think Camera Obscura’s peppier singles), then they are certainly going to be worth watching. “Walk With Me” is another winner: not a song that looks to a future for the band, but one that seems to represent a culmination of the work that lead up to it. It’s a song so well-paced that four minutes and 21 seconds seems far too short a time to spend in the vivid imagery and precise musical territory that Memoryhouse is exploring.

Of course, even with their strides in the direction of pop, there are still traces of occasional excess. “Punctum” is just not interesting enough to keep a listeners attention, despite some promising use of banjo, and its placement after the similarly slow “All Our Wonder” is quite simply not ideal. “Pale Blue” has good bits and dull bits—in fact, it seems disconcertingly like two unrelated songs stitched together.

Overall, this is an album that maintains its experimental cred while venturing leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessor both in listenability and construction. For instance, take the line, “This life could be/graced with symmetry,” which is surely one of the more headscratchingly intriguing rhymes to grace any album this month.

Memoryhouse – The Slideshow Effect tracklist:

  1. “Little Expressionless Animals”
  2. “The Kids Were Wrong”
  3. “All Our Wonder”
  4. “Punctum”
  5. “Heirloom”
  6. “Bonfire”
  7. “Pale Blue”
  8. “Walk With Me”
  9. “Kinds of Light”
  10. “Old Haunts”