New York’s Ex Cops play Russian roulette with a cartridge of sounds on True Hallucinations, their full-length debut that never lingers and often satisfies on repeat listens. Whether it’s the dreamy arts and crafts work of Pains of Being Pure at Heart (“Ken”), the jangly indie pop of the late Girls (“James”), the bluesy space sounds of Spiritualized (“Jazz & Information”), the whispered cues of Teenage Fanclub (“Spring Break (Birthday Song)”), or the tender shades of Velvet Underground (“Broken Chinese Chairz”), founding members Brian Harding (formerly of Hymns) and Amalie Bruun (yada yada yada of Minks) are always wandering — but that’s a good thing.
Because dream pop has become such a tired genre as of late, it’s refreshing to hear a refreshing take on a sound that’s become anything but refreshing. Lately, to go off on a slight tangent, it seems like anyone with a bedroom, a shopping bag of guitar pedals, and their pop’s old keyboard write six or seven mediocre experiments in the clouds, managing to eek one “interesting” thing, which lands them some press and an appearance or two at a festivals or on a tour — only to be forgotten a year later. True Hallucinations won’t share that ill fortune, namely because it’s put together so well.
Produced by John Siket (Yo La Tengo, Sonic Youth), the sleek, partly DIY-sounding 11 track album hardly feels like an 11 track album. It’s a swift 30 minutes that’s kept intriguing by sharp songwriting and terse structures. Both Harding and Bruun constructed each song with equal fervor, having screwed in the right hooks and melodies where necessary, and it’s all wholly ambitious without careening towards the edge. How the two manage to go from something as simple as the harmony-fueled single “James” to the brass-stuffed exploitation of “Jazz & Information” and then “out there” to the tar pit moonshine of “Billy Pressly” only to gun a U-turn into the indie pop fascination that is album closer “Broken Chinese Chairz” without it all feeling like a fucking mess is pretty awe-inspiring.
It’s like they’re constantly cribbing President Bartlet’s motto of “What’s next?” and meeting each ultimatum. And while originality isn’t the band’s thing — at least not yet — that loss hasn’t stopped anyone from listening to half of the influences on this record (here’s looking at you Mr. Berman and Mr. Owens). Instead, what True Hallucinations does is reupholster a genre that’s long shown its signs of wear and tear. So, you know, sit on it.
Essential Tracks: “James”, “Billy Pressly”, and “Broken Chinese Chairz”