by trevor elkin
While all the jangle-pop-shoegaze emerging from the West Coast States is no facsimile, it does hold up a rather humbling mirror to the slew of comeback bands from eighties/nineties Britain. This next generation from over the water actually sound bigger, are politically bolder and more beautiful than ever before. And they are DIY. Castlebeat’s self-titled debut is no exception and it gives us some of the catchiest sad pop you’ll hear this summer.
If you’re a regular Bandcamp surfer, you’ll already know how prolific Josh Hwang is, with several scrapbook albums of insanely good tunes under his own name. ‘Castlebeat’ sees a concerted effort to pile all that greatness into one release. Everything you hear was recorded in the twenty-two-year-old Californian’s garage. It’s hard to believe, when you’re soaking up the hazy vibrations of ‘Falling Forward’ or ‘Poolside’, or riding the clattering 170 beats per minute of ‘Downstairs’, that he spent $0 on studio time, producers and audio engineers. Cramming atmosphere and a sense of place into a four minute track is not easy, but somehow he does it with simplicity. For example, ‘Change Your Mind’ conjures up a night time driveway somewhere in 80s suburban America, porch light casting onto the silhouette of a young couple trying to resolve their differences. Hushed voices and stolen kisses, as a light in an upstairs bedroom flicks on…
On one level ‘Castlebeat’ sates the current appetite for wistful modernism, much like Stranger Things ability to flick the brain’s nostalgia switch to deluge us with dopamine. But as another reviewer has reminded us, this is not music meant for analysis. So listen below, kick back, just let it do its thing and take you away from the gloom to another place and era. You will be fine, we promise.
‘Castlebeat’ is out now on Spirit Goth Records