by Blouse


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Second albums are a sticky wicket: a band can either try to build on the sound of its debut and risk a sophomore slump, or try to prove it can do more than its first album allowed and risk alienating fans. Blouse pick the second option on Imperium, ditching their self-titled debut's hazy electro-pop for an eclectic sampling of grunge, shoegaze, and psychedelia. The switch is especially surprising since Blouse was widely praised, and it seemed like the band could have continued in -- or improved upon -- that direction with no trouble. Then again, as good as they were at blurry synth pop, that sound was so common that by the time Imperium arrived, any change would be refreshing. Blouse prove they're not kidding around about changing things with the title track, which begins with the sound of an electric bass and guitar revving up before swelling into the kind of '90s-worshiping rock that was also becoming ubiquitous in the early 2010s. However, Charlie Hilton's silvery vocals save it from becoming too grungy; likewise, her voice is an even more confident conduit for all the styles Blouse explore, whether it's the Lush-like dream pop of "Eyesight" or the driving rock of "Arrested." Her tender yet aloof singing makes the band sound even more like a more rock-oriented version of Broadcast, particularly on the trippy pop of "A Feeling Like This," the crisp love song "1000 Years," and its mirror twin "Trust Me," which offers a moment of trust instead of a millennium of devotion. Blouse's sound is nearly as big as their range on Imperium, with much grander production and arrangements courtesy of Jacob Portrait (whose work with Unknown Mortal Orchestra also feels like it rubbed off on these songs). The album's most striking moment might be "Capote," which builds on Blouse's latent drama and takes it in a gorgeously epic direction that feels timeless, even if its roots are clearly in '60s psych and soundtracks. Not all of Imperium's experiments are this successful: "In a Glass" feels weighed down by its heavy guitars, while "Happy Days"' expansiveness feels formless. Blouse fare much better when they embellish pop songs with wild sounds, as on the eerily catchy "No Shelter," where the elements the band plays with elsewhere become something unique. Songs like this one prove that even if this album isn't as immediately satisfying and coherent as Blouse was, it's more exciting, if only because of the possibilities it opens up. Imperium offers plenty of haunting moments that make it very much a Captured Tracks album, as well as one that grows in power with repeated listening.

Product Details

Release Date: 09/17/2013
Label: Captured Tracks Rec.
UPC: 0817949018856
catalogNumber: 90188
Rank: 178523

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