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Blonds – Blonds

on August 07, 2012, 8:00am
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A while ago, The New York Times published yet another article about relationships. In this one, couples were encouraged to cultivate separate interests and independence in order to grow stronger together. The inherent paradox and “duh” factor notwithstanding, many partners could stand to take something away from that. Cari Rae and Jordy Asher, who record and perform as Blonds, fell deeply in love and recorded last year’s Dark Roots EP before moving to Brooklyn from Florida, where they took their relationship to the next level: the self-titled full-length. Rae and Asher may have moved to New York to record Blonds with producer Nicolas Vernhes (Fiery Furnaces, Dirty Projectors), but they really moved for each other, and the results show in a comfortable album studio-polished to a dull sheen.
Opener “Heartstrings” sets the tone for the album with Rae pining for her absent lover to the dulcet tones of Etta James’ “At Last”, the lyrics “My heart is dangling by its strings” sounding one note too close for comfort to “My love has come along.” This is mostly because James puts more feeling into “love”‘s three syllables than Rae does in the same number of words, even though Rae’s lush, smoky voice nestles into the space between Asher’s strings like a head on his shoulder. Blonds‘ talent pays well-researched homage to bygone eras and talents, in both sound and scene: Motown plays in the background of “Amen”‘s Parisian bars, cut with a noir string interlude.
Hints of Dark Roots‘ playful darkness surface occasionally, like “Run”‘s murky guitar thrums and Asher’s striking higher range on “Gospel Kid”, which commands “take off your clothes,” deliciously undercut by Rae’s harmonies. By the end of the album, however, I’m left feeling like third wheel. “Time” floats on an inconsequential glockenspiel as she sings “Everything’s all right/ Time is on our side”; “Magic”‘s upright bass fails to transcend jazz lounge; and “If Only” is just too slow to be sad. Perhaps the mean streets of New York will push Blonds to greater heights– or back to their more fun, less produced depths– but first they have to stop being each other’s ball and chain.
Essential Tracks: “Run”, “Gospel Kid”
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