By Tom Charles
On dream pop outfit Beach Fossils’ latest offering, ‘Clash the Truth,’ dark introspection flows beneath layers of calm, airy instrumentation.
If Brooklyn’s dream pop project Beach Fossils’ eponymous debut sparkled in the light, their sophomore follow up, Clash the Truth (Captured Tracks), hardly begins until the lights are turned off. It’s as if songwriter Dustin Payseur — who plays all instruments during the recording process but recruits a band for live performances — provides the soundtrack to the sleep he envies you for finding. Serene yet self-deprecating, the album plays like the inner monologue of a sleepless victim of his own shortcomings.
As with just about everything to come out of Captured Tracks — Wild Nothing, DIIV, Dignan Porch — there’s hardly an unpleasant sound on Clash the Truth. From the very first notes of the album, Payseur’s use of syncopated jangly guitar licks, minor-key tonality, and mellow bass lines entrance the listener. The guitar plucking on “Generational Synthetic” is so delicate it’s easy to lose where one riff ends and another begins. And the rhythm of the bass is so on point with the drums during the album’s fourth track, “Careless,” that both bottom-end instruments start to fuse into one. Soon the eyelids start to droop; there’s nothing to worry about with such halcyonian music reminding you of better days.
For such an aesthetically pleasing record, Clash the Truth provides an uncomfortably candid look into Payseur’s head. Underneath the whirlpool of moist guitar textures lies a diary of uncertainty. As with most dream pop, the lyrics are either wholly existential (“Forgetting everything we’ll go and disappear/ And feel the close is near we’ll scream into the wind”) or introspective (“My head is numb and my hands are tied/ And I can’t remember what it’s like/ Get out of this place”). Even with this new level of honesty, Payseur no longer hides behind effects: the vocals are still dripping with the genre’s distinctive reverb, but they’re not quite as drenched as on previous Beach Fossils efforts. They’re easier to decipher.
Despite all the nostalgic pop pleasantries, Clash the Truth walks the line of self-destruction at times. It isn’t a “noisy” album by any means, but it can still be shelved as background noise. After 14 tracks, the melodies start to sound like running water; they drown in themselves. Instrumentals are lovely, but by the third one, “Ascension,” they start to seem unnecessary. Every track is light and airy, so there isn’t much need for interludes to break up the fluff.
The beauty of Clash the Truth is in its multifunctionality. It can be as simple or complex as the audience needs it to be. The instrumentation comes together to create one whimsically united track after another, allowing the listener to appreciate its intricacies or simply let it mindlessly play out in the background.