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Alternative & Indie - Released May 10, 2011 | Secretly Canadian


Alternative & Indie - Released September 4, 2015 | Polyvinyl Records

After living out the dream of everyone crafting retro-styled synth pop in their bedrooms or on their laptops, Painted Palms have taken a step forward on their second full-length album, 2015's Horizons. Previously, Reese Donohue and Christopher Prudhomme worked in their homes and exchanged their work by e-mail even when they were living in the same city, slowly but surely crafting their pop-leaning electronic music on their own. For Horizons, however, they opted not only to work in an actual recording studio, but even to hire an engineer, Eric Broucek, who is part of the DFA Records studio crew and recorded several LCD Soundsystem releases. To the surprise of nobody, Horizons sounds noticeably more polished than Painted Palms' previous releases, which is no drawback for synth-based music, though the occasional bursts of guitar and the more lo-fi aspects of the group's sound have fallen by the wayside this time out. The melodic structures on Horizons have a less organic sound and feel than they did on 2014's Forever; these songs owe their greatest allegiance to pop, but the dominant influence appears to be vintage synth pop from the '70s and '80s as filtered through contemporary EDM (though without the aggressive percussive elements that command the listener to hit the dancefloor). Horizons is brilliantly executed, with Donohue and Prudhomme giving this music the right balance of outer sheen and inner passion to make it work, as well as filling the tracks with lyrics and loops that cleverly point to past and present. But even though Painted Palms have made Horizons into a brilliant-sounding record, the expert realization of this music sounds a bit cooler and less personal than the music Donohue and Prudhomme created for Forever and their first EPs. The machines Painted Palms have brought into the studio can sound soulful and alive, but they don't always pass that test on this album. © Mark Deming /TiVo

Alternative & Indie - Released January 14, 2014 | Polyvinyl Records

Made up of cousins Reese Donahue and Chris Prodhomme, San Francisco duo Painted Palms began when the two were living thousands of miles away from each other and would exchange ideas for the band online. They pieced together an early EP this way, and even when that EP got them noticed and invited on various tours, the two ultimately ended up both living blocks away from each other in San Francisco but working on ideas in isolation in their time-honored fashion, trading files online to complete work on debut album Forever. The bedroom approach comes through loud and clear throughout the album, which never sounds cold but has a discernible tone of distance infused to its summery electro-pop beats. Painted Palms' sound draws heavily on the warm but perfectly constructed production of Animal Collective circa Merriweather Post Pavilion, or Of Montreal's most lucid moments of snarky, catchy indie rock. The vocals on all the songs meet a pleasant midpoint between Panda Bear's drawn-out croon and the jumpy falsetto of the Shins' James Mercer. Tunes like the hyper-catchy "Not Really There" and bounding album-opener "Too High" strike a perfect balance between these three main influences, meticulously composed computer beats meeting with watery samples and washed-out vocal harmonies. This formula makes the album run by in a pleasant blur for the first few listens, melodies blending into each other and gooey electronics all taking on similar colors. Eventually certain tracks begin to stand out more, like title track "Forever" with its sharp guitar riff and Bowie undercurrents and the synthy click-clack keyboards and tense dynamics of "Spinning Signs." As warm and happy as the songs can be, there's a strange sense of loneliness that runs through Forever. You can hear the isolated perspectives that it was made in creep into the finished products, which doesn't take away from the songs but adds a feeling of being stuck in some faraway dream to even the most immediate of the band's glowing pop tunes. © Fred Thomas /TiVo

Alternative & Indie - Released June 5, 2015 | Polyvinyl Records