Craft Spells: Nausea- In my research leading up to this review, I came across a list; a list consisting of 11 words from other languages that have no direct English translation. A few examples include the German word “waldeinsamkeit” (say that five times, fast) which describes the feeling of being alone in the woods or the Indonesian word “jayus”, which is slang for when someone tells a joke so poorly and is so unfunny that you can’t help but laugh. Another word featured on the list was “komorebi” which loosely translates to the interplay between the light and leaves as sunlight shines through the trees. Komorebi is also the title of one of the singles off of indie pop project Craft Spells‘ new effort, Nausea. The poeticism like the kind that went into naming said track can be found over every inch of the sophomore LP from Justin Vallesteros and crew. In the three years since Idle Labor, the band has matured sonically and has ventured into less obvious territory to create something that is just as charming as their previous body of work but with a refreshing new take.
In recent years, Brooklyn’s Captured Tracks have cornered the market on dreamy, bedroom pop. A great deal of their success has been in locating outstanding individual talents who, when joined by a supporting band, are a force to be reckoned with. Vallesteros holds his own alongside some other talented frontmen (Jack Tatum, Dustin Payseur, etc.). The great thing is that with each new release, we get to see each songwriter grow and discover more about their individual sound. In our recent interview, Vallesteros said of Nausea: “It’s more like my idea of composing an album rather than writing a record.” It shows. Vallesteros has looked past relying solely on hazy guitars and dreamy synths and has incorporated more varied instrumentation (flutes, strings, horns) to create sounds that are fuller and more broad on this new record.
The album kicks off with titular track, ‘Nausea’, which eases the listener in rather than diving in head-first. The mellow tone sets a precedent for what is to follow. Despite the obvious growth on the album, Vallesteros is smart enough to know that there are certain aspects of previous releases that fans really responded to and loved and has made a point to hold onto specific characteristics of his songwriting that make Craft Spells what it is. The relaxing nature of his music being one of those characteristics. Even tracks that have a bit more of an upbeat kick to them like ‘Laughing For My Life’ or ‘Twirl’ still manage to capture a peaceful element.
One of the tracks that stands out the most on the album, also happens to be the shortest. Clocking in at one minute and 47 seconds, the track is entitled ‘Instrumental’ and as you can guess, there are no vocals. What makes it stand out is exactly that. This is the first time Craft Spells have included an instrumental on an album and does everything a good instrumental track should do; it acts as a nice transition between songs and stays true to the overall sound of the album.
One of the big stand-outs on the release, other than the title-track, is the first single, ‘Breaking the Angle Against the Tide’. This is another song that ventures into new territory for Craft Spells with vocals layered in a way that is compelling to listen to and pairs a traditional indie rock guitar sound against some of those newly incorporated strings. With an album that, as a whole, moves at a relatively chilled out pace, ‘Breaking the Angle’ ends things with a bit more oomph.
With Nausea, Craft Spells have managed to strike the perfect balance between experimenting while staying true to a sound that made for a powerhouse debut. Soothing melodies, earnest lyricism, and well thought-out composition has made this sophomore LP a fine addition to the Craft Spells catalog and yet another building block to rising career in the world of indie music…9.7/10