The four-piece, now based in Austin, is fronted by Mike Lee, whose hushed vocals recall intimate accounts of love, loss, relationships and youth. Never a band to favor sentiment over melody, Letting Up‘s beat-driven, hook-infused songs alternate seamlessly between pounding indie rock anthems and evocative, shoegazey soundscapes. Their new album, Neon, features the band at full form, taking listeners on a sonic joyride full of overdriven guitars, lush synths, and danceable dreampop.
(Riot Act Media)
Neon does not have any underlying surprises nor it meanders along. It’s fast, it’s direct and it’s never too blunt. There’s an urgent sense of nostalgia and longing but it won’t allow itself to indulge into mopey wallowing. The familiarity of album opener ‘Shift’ evolves nicely, setting up the stage for ‘Wrapped’, ‘Automatic’ & ‘Gold’, a trifecta of addictive pop. ‘Ride’, however outshines this trio, a pretty Herculean feat to do.
‘Yours’ splits the album in two (I assume it’s the last song of side a – I’m streaming this album so I might be fibbing) and ‘Secrets’ teases you, lasting just a quick breath and flying away like a falling star. Annah Fisette takes main vocals on the gorgeous ‘Bishops’, a song with a firm grasp on the realm of electronic dream pop and is another highlight of Neon. ‘Ecru’ is a wonderful instrumental segue that sports some haunting playground noises way in the back; the sounds of childhood flashing by just enough to bring a memory but not too permanent to distract you from now.
Neon opens with “Shift,” a mid-tempo song with glowing synths and vocals drenched in effects. It’s so sugary and poppy that you might need an insulin shot after it’s over. “Wrapped” is a song about letting go of a love that is hanging by a thread. Lee sings, “I’m comfortable wrapped in you” and describes his memories as “hazy.” Comfort and hazyness are the perfect words to describe this song, and as an extension, this album.
“Automatic” is a New Order-esque throwback full of bleeps and bloops sprinkled in as garnish. It’s four on the floor, cheery and just what you’d expect in the background of a coming-of-age teen sitcom. It’s not far from the truth, since a couple of their songs have been featured on One Tree Hill and 90210. The ’90s revival continues with “Gold,” an homage to ’90s alt rock with a post-hardcore lead guitar for good measure. It sounds like what you’d be listening to if you were riding your 10-speed bike as fast as you can down a long, winding hill with the wind blowing furiously against your face. It helps that the main riff sounds like something Bloc Party would write.
“Ride” is sure to satisfy anyone’s sweet ear. It’s a triumphant summer anthem. It’s what would be playing through a school’s intercom in the moments before summer break. “Yours” is their more wintery (if we’re focusing on seasons here) track. It’s less of a track and more of a somber segue into “Secrets,” which also seems to end abruptly. The album’s pace picks up with “Legends,” which has a sense of urgent instrumentation. Annah Fisette’s catchy vocals brighten “Bishops,” a darker and more pounding take on LUDGF’s dreamy sound. “Ecru” reminds us that LUDGF is a portal into our mental cave. It has field samples of children playing while washed out synthesizers complement the noise of their frolicking.
Letting Up Despite Great Faults ride the coattails of their shoegaze forefathers and fail to provide a challenging listen. It’s content and comfortable sitting in a sea of unintelligible, introspective vocals and bittersweet themes. The structure, feeling and melancholy are all there, but once you intellectualize the feeling, it seems mundane. If whispery vocals, tales of heartbreak, and anything shoegaze appeal to you, then check out Neon’s ode to pop.