I never heard Videotape‘s debut EP. It’s one of those things that eluded me and I never got around to it. So, when I was sent their new album, which comes out today, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The version that I listened to says “Shoegaze” in the top right corner. That word describes a kind of music that I can dig when the time calls for it, but This Is Disconnect is not a shoegaze record. Maybe that’s what their initial sound was on their EP, but blistering guitars and howling vocals don’t for a shoegaze record make. No, my friends, this is good old rock and roll-with a couple shoegazey tunes, too.
The star of this record, front to back, is Sophia Leigh and her vocal tracks. They stand front and center on almost every song and they shine bright and make everything else sound better. On “The Creeps” she holds on to the lower register for most of the song, sounding like Shirley Manson back in her salad days. She also goes a little Grace Slick at the end. Usually that’s a bad thing as most vocalists can’t pull it off, but Leigh does a good job with it.
“Pulling Teeth” is the track that is being used as the barometer for whether or not you’ll like This Is Disconnect. It’s a good song, but there are better to be found here. One thing I don’t like about it is that some of the vocals are buried in the mix. The guitar work is great, and the Sarah Sterling’s percussion work is spot on. There’s just something that doesn’t add up for me on this one. I don’t feel like it captures the groups best sound. Listen for yourself and let me know what you think.
Surprisingly, my favorite tracks are a couple of softer ones that appear late in the album. “Forms” is basically an instrumental track with haunting and beautiful vocals wailing throughout. The first half almost sounds like a traditional celtic ballad. Then at around the four minute mark there’s an explosion of guitars and drum, and the song is transformed into a more aggressive, frantic pace-like the song is chasing after something that’s falling deeper and deeper into the abyss.
And then there’s “Digest,” which may be my favorite song in the whole collection. This one definitely IS shoegaze, and that’s totally ok because it reminds me of old Mazzy Starr. Like a lot of their music, the dynamic changes at some point and the song really becomes a fuzzy guitar show. I’m happy to report that it only stays that way for a minute on this one before returning to the atmospheric roots of the song. There is a little guitar part that plays under the main line that I really dig. This song has the most depth on the album, and if every song were like this I’d never stop listening.
Videotape is local to Chicago, and yet somehow I hadn’t heard of them until I was sent this record. A pity, because I’m sure their live show is quite good. I guess it goes to show that even though I try to hear as much as I can, I still very much live in a bubble in my home town. The album is out now, and you can listen to it and buy it on Bandcamp!