Every once in a while, a band comes around that just grabs me. Their catalogue grips me by the throat and won't let go. For the next few weeks, no other music matters.
Last year, that band was Spotlights. From the moment Seismic first rolled over me, I couldn't get enough. I purchased a vinyl copy halfway through the record. After I practically wore out my needle on it, I tracked down what I'm pretty sure is the last copy of their debut Tidals on the whole internet. Neither has left my turntable much in the past year. In fact, I added both of them to my personal 2018 year-end list even though neither of them came out in 2018. But that didn't change the fact that Spotlights was the most significant discovery I made that year, by a long shot.
So when I first heard that they were releasing their third record, Love & Decay, I already knew it was going to be one of my favorite records of the year (I preordered a copy before I even listened to the lead single).
And even with my admittedly very high expectations, I was not let down.
Love & Decay utilizes the same formula that made their first two full-lengths such masterpieces: crushing walls of guitar, glistening synth textures, and lighter-than-air vocals. And the group is fully convinced of how winning that formula is, because instead of introducing new elements to their winning sonic palette, they go deeper.
"Continue the Capsize" opens the record like an overture, unfolding all of the textures the record will explore: churning electric guitars, fuzzed bass, ambient synths, shuffling drums, and the dueting voices of husband/wife duo Sarah and Mario Quintero, which don't make an appearance until four minutes into the track. It's standard Spotlights fare—but they sound more like themselves than ever. The riffs are heavier, the vocals are dreamier, and the keyboards are gauzier.
And across these nine tracks (my promo copy included the vinyl/CD exclusive track "Sleep Walker"), they flex their compositional muscles like never before. The middle section of "Far From Falling" builds on a looping guitar arpeggio, adding layer upon layer until it bursts with cathartic heaviness. "The Beauty Of Forgetting" spends eleven minutes exploring clanking industrial, tar-black sludge, and ethereal shoegaze.
If Seismic had any flaw at all, it was that it dragged a bit in the back half. But even at fifty-six minutes, Love & Decay feels much lighter. Of course, it still feels like a massive statement, but there is not a second of wasted space here. A few of the tracks are downright economical. "Xerox" isn't even three and a half minutes long.
Overall, Love & Decay is an opus. A masterwork by a group that continues to prove that they are an act to watch. And with this new record, they're inarguably three for three.