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Music Review: The Pastels/The Tenniscoats – Two Sunsets

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At first one can’t think of a stranger idea than a Scottish band and a Japanese band cutting an album together. Two Sunsets brings together indie pop legends The Pastels with experimental pop band The Tenniscoats. While the former’s style is more straight rock ‘n’ roll, the latter’s is delicate and sometimes atonal. Making this an odder choice is that one sings in English and the other Japanese. However, the result is more seamless than you’d expect.

The combined band comprises Steven and Katrina of the Pastels and Saya and Ueno of the Tenniscoats. Joining them are Gerard Love (Teenage Fanclub), Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub) and also Bill Wells, a friend of both groups. Instead of developing a single musical style, the bands lend their talents to the other’s songs. The Pastels continue to move away from their familiar brisk-sparkle-pop sound. While there’s still a 60s influence, it’s slower and more reflective. Don’t worry, they’re still romantics. The Tenniscoats, on the other hand, tone down their trial-and-error approach and embrace their poppier side.

All over the album, an expansiveness embraces your ears. It’s like Two Sunsets was recorded outdoors because it almost generates its own atmosphere. This is helped by woodwinds like clarinets and pan flutes. The wordless opening track, “So Many Stars,” paints a nighttime vista with ever growing layers of sounds. More than a bunch of ambient instrumentals, the music is lively but easygoing. “Vivid Youth’s” slightly jazzy riffs are a perfect soundtrack for hanging out with friends by the beach.

The English lyrics are the most beautiful part about Two Sunsets. “Vivid Youth,” “Boats” and “Start Slowly” are all sketched out in such poetic detail, you can imagine it in your mind. For instance, check out what Katrina sings in the second verse of “Vivid Youth”: “Vivid youth under early evening sky. Watching flames licking up and I’m warm into your side. Plenty of time for a circumstantial crime.” Additionally, a Jesus and Mary Chain cover “About You” reminds me of a darker version of The Rentals with Steven singing lead vocals and Katrina and Saya handling backing harmonies.

It’s somewhat hard to review an album split between two different languages. Nothing is hugely wrong with Saya’s voice. She blends well with Steven and Katrina. But as pure melody, her singing on the Japanese songs isn’t equally as stirring. A small bump like that is acceptable on a scenic drive like Two Sunsets. It’s a postcard with lovely memories.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The Pastels Myspace

The Tenniscoats Myspace

“Vivid Youth” Music Video:

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About Kevin Gustafson

  • Sharon

    Very impressive review; I’m not familar with this group, but your review certainly makes me want to hear the album

  • Christine

    Good review, although I think you’re being kind in your gentle criticism of The Tenniscoats contribution. I guess calling their band “experimental” makes for a nice excuse. That girl can’t carry a tune, and it’s painful. I mean, I like some charmingly off-key indie singers, but…! I had to skip those tracks because the singing just made me wince. I wish The Pastels sang more of these. Extract their songs and you get a stellar EP!

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/kevin-gustafson/ Kevin Gustafson

    Yeah, when is that new Pastels record coming out? 80s/early 90s indie is popular again. Steven better take advantage of his hoodie and messy boyish hair. Michael Cera has stolen his look and made tons of money off it.