It doesn’t feel like that long ago when indie pop was a throttling, invigorating source of optimism in the face of ever-encroaching 21st-century dread. Much of the most thrilling music to emerge from the 2000s defined itself through unrelenting joyousness, carving a new home for art to exist between the celebration of pop music and the critical perspective of DIY. Groups like Animal Collective, Sleigh Bells, Dan Deacon, and Lightning Bolt painted vibrant rainbows for us to bask in, music both high-concept and high-energy that, even if many of its ideas weren’t the first of their kind, never felt like mere homages to the past. But something has changed since then. While the stream of soundalike guitar noodlers hasn’t let up in the ensuing years, the real frontrunners of artistic progress have either moodied up the palette of the moment (Death Grips, Arca, Oneohtrix Point Never) or tackled optimism in such an extreme manner so to render it as a form of commentary (PC Music). Whether it’s cloaked in darkness or attempting to elevate, cynicism is at the heart of our experimental music today, a criticism of our culture at large that, while vital, can sometimes end up adding to the relentless, oppressive state we exist within.
Fortunately, Crying have arrived to deliver us from our sorrows. What may have started as a fairly innocent chiptune project with the group’s 2014 double EP Get Olde / Second Wind has already evolved levels beyond, into a force that both throttles our current cultural obsessions while being daring enough to simply and bracingly have fun with them. Beyond the Fleeting Gales, Crying’s full-length debut, is a dramatic, life-affirming thrill ride that reinvents twee as a muscular, confident embodiment of youth, less the story of a sad kid on the bus than a trunk-rattling night out with all your friends. The trio of Elaiza Santos, Ryan Galloway, and Nick Corbo turbine a sumptuous bounty of gimmicky styles into a swirl of reckless abandon and enthusiasm, a mishmash of arena rock, 8-bit, emo, and prog that jettisons much of their cultural baggage in favor of making something both immediate and personal.
Beyond the Fleeting Gales channels so many disparate sounds into its millenial mélange that the group’s construction-paper approach ends up impressing more like a symphony of Game Boys, powerhouse drums and overdubbed guitar shredding than the work of garage-bred home recorders. This expansive malleability carries into the songs themselves, which deliver a breathtaking consistency across the album’s effortless 30 minutes. “Wool In The Wash” evolves seamlessly from its Animal Crossing-slow jam beginnings to a beaming, disco-fueled climax, while “There Was A Door” contains hooks in its bridges that could serve as the foundation of entire other songs (the double turntable scratch that crashes the latter’s finale is one of the most random and exhilarating things I’ve heard all year). Crying have an astonishing knack for churning out instantly touching melodies, and from the moment Santos’s cheery vocals kick off the shimmering and grungy opener “Premonitory Dream,” Beyond the Fleeting Gales doesn’t let up its elation for even a second. Even tracks like “Patriot” and “A Sudden Gust” that might start out seeming like in-betweener songs end up blossoming into crushingly beautiful mini-masterpieces, pure pop that gives Beyond the Fleeting Gales the quality of one glorious hook stretched from one end of the record to the other.
But perhaps the most endearing thing about Beyond the Fleeting Gales (besides its delightfully expressive and elementary artwork) is Crying’s refusal to allow their quirky taste in sound to overpower the intrinsic feeling of their music. Even “Revive,” the most blatantly cock rock moment on the entire album, achieves brilliance by transcending any concept of hybridized genre shtick, choosing rather to deliver a genuinely heartfelt and crescendo’ing slice of sentimental gold. Funnily enough, for a band that sounds like they took a bunch of quiet acoustic guitar songs and magnified them to stadium rock opera levels, Beyond the Fleeting Gales’s least affecting moments come when the group decides to turn the volume down. “Well And Spring” and “Children Of The Wind” are more slight mood pieces than anything, and yet even in their simplicity, these tracks serve as refreshing breaths of cold air before diving back into the sweat pit (the karaoke keyboards of “Children Of The Wind” are still as colorful as anything else on the album). By sticking to their guns, Crying reveal that their methods and styles for achieving ultimate musical ecstasy are essentially irrelevant; these songs aren’t about technicality or lyrical content or goofy genre interplay as much as they are about pure, emotional energy.
The bittersweet truth about music this overpowering and rich is that I can’t honestly tell you if I’m still going to be listening to it in a year. Many of the artists I mentioned at the beginning of this review may have seemed like my entire world at one point, but pop fades like all things, and we seem to consume (and dispose of) music more ravenously now than before. Time shapes us and changes us, and we can’t always take the things we used to love with us as we step forward into the unknown. But Beyond the Fleeting Gales is a reminder of that urgency that we need in music, that need to feel both powerful and fragile at once, to thrash ourselves to the beat of a song with the full knowledge that soon it will all be over. It’s pop music at its most all-encompassing, dripping with earnest feeling that doesn’t feel forced, but rather constructive and undemanding. Beyond the Fleeting Gales is a genuine and unpretentious promise from Crying that they are here, and so are we, and together we can save the world, even if it’s just for a moment.