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Pale Seas - Stargazing For Beginners (Album Review)

Thursday, 12 October 2017 Written by Graeme Marsh

It’s taken a while, but Southampton’s Pale Seas have finally conjured a debut LP after a disappearing act Houdini would have been proud of. The band, led by Jacob Scott, piqued interest with a handful of singles several years ago before vanishing, taking any thoughts of album one with them.

Thankfully, their exit through a trapdoor actually amounted to spending a while at a medieval abbey on the Isle of Wight, where the majority of ‘Stargazing For Beginners’ was recorded at night, drawing on the atmospherics of their surroundings.

For those new to the band, they’re shaped by influences including the Cure, Mazzy Star and Galaxie 500, and with the Verve producer Chris Potter also involved, you get some idea of what’s going on.

In many places, an air of dreaminess is the order of the day. In A Past Life’s Interpol-style guitars chime amid gorgeous synth swathes. The minimalist Blood Return, meanwhile, captures a haunting moment through its use of ghostly vocals.

Animal Tongue injects more pace, along with a lively guitar hook, proving there’s more on offer than just ethereal beauty here. Bodies, reworked from 2012 and one of three survivors from those early tracks, blends sugary Beach Boys harmonies with a great hook while another older song – My Own Mind – relies heavily on Scott’s encapsulating vocals alongside psychedelic guitars.

But the real glory of ‘Stargazing For Beginners’ is shared by three genuinely outstanding cuts. Opener Into The Night is impossibly cool, as is single Someday. The former is remarkably simplistic yet effortless: mean and moody with a soaring chorus. Someday is even better, with another straightforward guitar line leading to a belting, anthemic refrain. It’s a masterful indie-pop gem.

And then we have closer Evil Is Always One Step Behind, the final revisited oldie that weaves a spell over seven minutes. Built around a recurring melody, the track’s an epic and meanders through blissful passages prior to a glorious break that threatens to take the roof off.

‘Stargazing For Beginners’ is well worth the wait, then. The potential this band has is staggering, but having taken years to create this debut we can only hope that album number two will prove less time consuming. Pale Seas appear to be teetering on the edge of magnificence.

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