In my head, The Blakes sounds like a name that would come attached to one of those pre-packaged, image-bred boy bands from England (complete with three Bieber-haired teens with matching monograms). This Seattle-based trio is nothing like that. With a resume of self-released albums, The Blakes return with yet another they’re putting on their own. And, for the record, they decided on their moniker when singer and guitarist Garnet Keim dreamt he met 18th century poet William Blake in a metal shop. Plus, it sort of sounds like The Smiths. And everyone loves The Smiths.
The 12-track Art of Losses finds the band wandering into new territory as they fan out their sound past their post-punk origins with the help of some synthesizers, dreamy harmonies, and in the studio, the use of “any sound, patch or effect as necessary” – something they shied away from on earlier work– while still, as the band writes on its website, “staying true to our more garage roots.” It’s the type of album on which the listening experience is shuffled, with up-tempo pop rock tracks (“Art of Losses”, “Paralysis”), ‘80s-inspired, synth-driven songs (“NARWHAL”, “Dark Is The Night”), and a couple of tunes that reroot the band in their grungy beginnings (“Black Carnation”, “New Friends”).
The record is anchored, however, by standout tracks “Pocket”, a dreamy song whose echoing acoustic guitars and drums elicit thoughts of Fleet Foxes; and the contrary “Sea Fishing (Slow It Down)”, which, with its light electric guitar, catchy piano and high-pitched “ooh”s , calls to mind feel-good-90s songs from bands like The New Radicals, a surprise for long-time Blakes fans.
Art of Losses clocks in at only about 34 minutes (only three songs are over three minutes long), and although blasé moments manifest, the more vast sound maximizes the trio’s potential like never before. Plus, you’ve got to admire a band who, after over a decade of working the indie scene, writes of its new tour, “We will be the ones sleeping in the back of the van outside your favorite club.”
Essential Tracks: “Pocket”, “Sea Fishing (Slow It Down)”