Blushing is a four piece dream pop band from Austin, Texas made up of two married couples: Michelle and Jake Soto (guitar and vocals, drums) and Christina and Noe Carmona (bass and vocals, guitar). Their hugely enjoyable eponymous album, released simultaneously by Wallflower Records in the U.S. and Canada, and Hands and Moment Records in Japan, comes on the back of two highly promising EPs, Tether, which the band self released in 2017, and Weak released last year on Austin Town Hall Records.
In addition to a Japan-only bonus track, “Secrets,” The Hands and Moment release of Blushing, features translations of the lyrics by local shoegaze hero Natsuki Kato of Luby Sparks: suggesting a friendly acknowledgement of shared sonic territory and serving perhaps as a letter of introduction/seal of approval to numerous fuzz-hungry Japanese music fans. The fact that recording, mixing and production duties were performed by fellow Austinite Elliot Frazier of Ringo Deathstarr probably won’t hurt in getting the album some well-deserved attention either. Wherever people like their guitars loud (and then very loud) and their vocals dreamy, Blushing will be getting noticed.
The band’s sound, still in development on their previous EPs, is now fully fashioned and uniquely theirs, but is instantly relatable to anyone who has kept an eye (or more likely a damaged and ringing ear) on the shoegazing/dream pop scenes of the last three decades. The most obvious influence is Lush (whose early EPs were produced by Robin Guthrie of Cocteau Twins: another certainty on the no doubt well-stocked records shelves of the Soto and Carmona households). The intertwining vocal lines that criss-cross the album with an eerie beauty are often so evocative of Pre-Britpop Lush that the similarity in band names, one neatly camouflaged in the other, seems perhaps not entirely coincidental. A less obvious, but important influence must surely be Tanya Donelly of Throwing Muses, Breeders and Belly, whose magic realist dream-paintings of songs share a similarly charged psychic landscape to many here, particularly “The Last Time” and “Me With You.”
The imaginative and intuitive musical interplay displayed across the album points to a band with well-developed cooperative skills: each member complementing and supporting the others in pursuit of their mutual art. The carefully considered bass lines, never showy or obtrusive, exert a steady gravitational pull, while the artfully restrained drumming shows real poise. Mr. Soto knows exactly when and when not to bash the hell out of his kit, and does both with great style. The guitars, capable of whooshing from tightly constructed post-Cure jangles that will appeal to fans of DIIV, the Cocteaus or Horsebeach, to howling not-for-the-lily-livered My Bloody Valentine dissonance without a moment’s notice, are played with subtlety and an attention to mood that means they never bury the vocals or other instruments. Instead they act as the sometimes bruised clouds that hold the rest aloft, always parting at just the right moments to allow the sunbeams through.
Pop treats abound throughout, from the Tears For Fears twiddliness of “The Last Time,” to the “Motorcycle Emptiness” guitar sound that makes a late appearance on “Pressure” and the descending “You Only Live Twice” structure of “Sunshine”. The undoubted highlight is “The Truth,” which builds to a joyous climax reminiscent of Adorable’s classic “Sunshine Smile” before finishing far too soon. Luckily it stands up to (obsessive) repeat playings, as does the entire album. The skill and cohesion of the band meant that without ever being formulaic, the songs on Blushing all exist in the same strangely enchanting and often thrillingly noisy universe. The wonders of recorded music means it is a universe that can be visited again at the touch of a button.