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Monday, 28 October 2013 08:00

Album review: Weekend illuminates the shadows of new wave on 'Jinx'

Album review: Weekend illuminates the shadows of new wave on 'Jinx'
Written by Erin Frank
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In Season 9 of "The Simpsons," Lisa is convinced that she possesses a gene that will render her as stupid as Homer and Bart someday, and in an effort to feed her brain with as much culture as possible before its inevitable decline, she goes to a jazz club and is dismayed when another patron compares the performance to someone "hitting a baby with a cat."

"You have to listen to the notes she's not playing," Lisa says, to which the patron sniffs in reply, "I can do that at home."

It's a well-worn joke about jazz, of course, and for anyone who probably doesn't really get jazz, it sounds like a cop-out. But it does have merit, and for some reason, I found myself thinking about this while listening to Weekend's second LP, "Jinx."

It's weird, but on "Jinx," Weekend has managed to suffuse the space between -- between lyrics, between riffs, even between song themes -- with a kind of shadowy presence that becomes almost tangible at times before slipping under and away, hard to define but really difficult to explain. Which is my job here, unfortunately (for me).

The album design -- all crocodile skull, a holy water reliquary, and unsheathed switchblade painted in inky black against a stark white background -- offers as much of a contrast to the dense atmospheric music within as the driving distortion of some tracks like "Mirror," "July" and "Scream Queen" sits opposed to the grace of titles like "Adelaide," "Rosaries" and "Oubliette."

Weekend formed in 2009 and relocated to Brooklyn to record "Jinx," and as a result, shed a good measure of the restrained fuzz on 2011's "Red" and all of the blustery yowl on 2010's "Sports." In exchange, Weekend have picked up a more urbane quality. It's a standard West Coast-for-East Coast trade, and while "Jinx" is not as unabashed as Weekend's previous albums, it does not entirely suffer for its adaptation.

It's interesting, actually and "Jinx" is a better album than I originally gave it credit to be. "Mirror" builds like an ambient chillwave track but transforms into something resembling an industrial cover of a Duran Duran demo. "Rosaries" is at once tranquil and chaotic, harsh with snare and reverb but tranquil in its underlying thrum.

"Jinx" is never aggressive and it does not plunge headlong into apathy, but it does contain the kind of updated new-wave melodies and clerestory echoes to make it into sort of a Brooklyn grimoire, an album for anyone who held onto their Tears For Fears and Depeche Mode posters but who probably went through at least a little bit of a Goth phase, too.

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