Instinct can be a funny thing. More often than not, your instincts, that little bizarre thing you can't touch but know is there, warns you or alerts about something and winds up being right about said event. We don't always trust our instincts, but those moments when you know it's right is amazing. There's just something there, and you can't quite put your finger on it, but something tells you you're going to like something. This phenomenon hit me barely a few songs into The Delicate Cycles self titled album.
It does alert me that, as a reviewer, I shouldn't let such things cloud my judgement, but I couldn't help it. The Delicate Cycle play a jangly form of alternative-americana-pop that seems to play into a 'hip' trope but is so clearly unaware of itself that it survives this comparison. It's retro for sure, feeling at home in an episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer or The Adventures Of Pete And Pete, but that familiarity is what drives home its strengths.
"Ohio" feels like the quintessential song on the album, producing a quick, sleek alternative track that begs the question, "If this were made fifteen years ago, would it have been a big hit?". That nostalgia, again, is evident here, but it doesn't feel forced. The songs structure, as simple as it may seem, speaks volumes about their ability to write a song and know their audience. Maybe I'm grasping a bit too much here, but take a listen to it and try telling me it doesn't hit you immediately with a sense of cool.
"Biology" and "Whose Side Am I On?" continue the alternative feel of the record, but regress a bit in their brashness, opting instead to woo us with their ability to create a catchy tune. "Biology" does this less so that "Whose Side Am I On?", which seems to take a page out of The Breeders book a little, but still reels in enough good riffs to make it stand out. Both songs are fine additions to the album, and give it a sense of depth sorely missed with similar artists other works.
"Oak And Holly" really plays out as a pop song, which is important since they declare themselves as pop-song writers. It's not a traditional pop song mind you, but once fit for the radio in the early nineties, delivering a powerful acoustic guitar line to supplement the drums. It's sure to hit you as something you're kind of heard before, but that familiarity, combined with its terrific execution, should warrant a free pass with any gripes you may have about such a notion.
"Onion Skin" and "I'll Find Your Hand" detour the album a bit, restraining the comfortable alternative blanket put over you and fitting you instead with an americana one. They don't have the violins and all out assault of acoustic guitars so often needed to fit itself within the genre, but the overall tone and delivery plays it off as such a thing. There's still an alternative soul bouncing throughout these songs, but nothing ever gets too aggressive to really warrant the labeling.
Only the final track, "Athena", feels empty here, instilling heavily modified and drone-like guitar riffs throughout the entire track. Joy Garretson, the vocalist, has a pretty solid voice, and it's fine to have an acoustic-only track on the album, but something about it closing everything out and the psychedelic guitar sound just didn't mix well with me. The rest of the album is so solid you almost forget it exists on the album, but unfortunately, it does.
The Delicate Cycles self-titled album is terrific, and it's nice to know that laid-back, almost slackerish sound from the 90's isn't fully dead. They try to balance their sound out, never relying too much on one genre, and it works in their favor. Hopefully they can harness this sound for good, because if so, we could have a legitimate underground success on our hands. - Shane