From the first plaintive keystroke, it’s easy to be swept into Gem Club‘s Breakers. The album marks the Somerville, MA duo’s first attempt at a proper full-length, packaging their drowsy dream pop and excising any upbeat, spirited attitude. Instead, there’s a gradual revealing of heart-wrenching melodies that drowns listeners in earnest sorrow.
Through their simplicity and the thundering slow reveal of instruments, Gem Club’s tracks remain memorable for their lucid gloom. “Breakers” feels limitless with somber piano soaring to echo off rolling bursts of bells that twinkle amongst faint vocals. Tracks like “Black Ships” are surrounded in space and dramatic pauses, allowing the resounding ominous strokes of strings and keys to engulf the silence.
The gritty whisper of lead vocalist Christoper Barnes floats along lightly, but purposefully, leading listeners into a downward spiral of vast emotions. “I want to lie still, near you,” Barnes repeats on opener “Twins”, backed by the soft bellows of horns and hollow keys. When Barnes’ own vocals are combined with the tender soprano of his female counterpart, Ieva Berberian, like on “252”, there’s a shining flourish that pleases the system.
Reliant on few instruments, there’s also a sense of intimacy to Breakers, as if Gem Club is telling you a secret so pure and honest you shouldn’t be allowed to listen. So many layers unfold to their sound that even upon repeated listens their whispered secrets still have fresh moments to uncover. It’s for that reason alone you’re willing to stop treading through and just allow yourself to sink deeper and deeper.
Essential Tracks: “Twins”, “Breakers”, and “252”