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MINKS – By The Hedge

on January 11, 2011, 7:59am

The Brooklyn, New York, duo MINKS have been branded as goth throughout the Internet. Cure-like would be a more accurate label. Not in a Robert Smith croony kind of way, but more in a fuzzy aesthetic similarity that combines the best of 80s pop with occasional dark touches. So much talk about the band gets into how dark/heavy/foggy the sound is, and I can’t help but say, “really?” and then scratch my head, every time. Sean Kilfoyle and Amalie Bruun aren’t entirely anchored in that Cure devotion. (Their lo-fi, home-style engineering sounds as fresh and in tune with the times as anything else.) This is a record balanced between the dark and the bright, the soupy haze and the snappy pop.

To perfectly display this blending, “Kusmi” opens the record with a buzzy brightness. “Sweet” may be the best description of what the two produce here, both voices mingling slightly back in the balance, covered in just enough reverb. It’s a great pop song, Bruun and Kilfoyle’s voices playing off of each other well, talking about “walking after dark” and “girls with broken hearts” without the drenching darkness that implies. The almost too charming, bass-driven “Out of Tune” follows, layers of vocals contributed by each multi-instrumentalist dipping in and out of coherence, in and out of tune with each other and themselves, “out of tune, out of mind” repeated ad nauseam. This is one of those “pay attention to me!” songs that gets exactly what it asks for. Again, MINKS find that middle ground between song and concept, fulfilling both qualifications to a T.

Even on a song with a title like “Funeral Song”, they’re not as gloomy or thick as made out to be. Coincidentally or not, it’s also the most Cure-like they sound on the album, the bass seemingly jacked straight from Michael Dempsey. “So long summertime, not coming back” is a dark-sounding mantra, but when Kilfoyle adds, “but I like it” to the end, as he does every third or fourth time, it’s a relishing of that darkness, one that’s also incredibly apparent in their devotion to the Cure. It doesn’t sound depressed as much as it does loving and appreciative of the darkness.

“Cemetary Rain” finds itself in that world, the weighty, dark title concept paired with buoyant, driving bass and acoustic strumming, flourishes of bright synth added to the mix to thicken things up a bit. But, again, this isn’t dark, it’s not deep, it’s not foreboding. It’s welcoming, inviting, a poppy hug from a sad friend. This is confusing for a while, but there are enough catchy hooks and fun moments to latch onto, which is precisely how I feel about a lot of the Cure, so take that with a grain of salt, all you Smith fanatics. “Boys Run Wild” is the first song on this album that I get any kind of seriously foggy vibe from, the addition of violin and the extended distance between the listener and Kilfoyle’s vocals producing a denser feel, but the guitar’s chords still feel positive, upward.

There are some real pop gems on here, especially if you’re fond of The Cure and their ilk. Maybe it’s just me not getting that soupy gloom that seems to be out there for everyone else. Regardless, it’s certainly one to have on your iPod for a walk outside on a day when it might rain.

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