It was only a year ago when San Francisco’s Young Prisms issued their debut full-length, Friends For Now, a now arguably fascinating sonic take on and manifestation of the marriage between that somewhat hard-to-place bleakness and melancholia unique to California/West Coast psychedelic/surf/dream rock and the early, seemingly exclusively British and Northeast American shoegaze sound. As one of the band’s songwriters, Gio Betteo, had pointed out, Friends was also meant to document or capture the ephemeral, fleeting, blissful urgency of irresponsible young adulthood, and it did so quite successfully (and succinctly) with its coy, indie pop-inspired first half, which then devolved into a multiple-song finale of walls of noise, fitted to the brim with a sincerely boisterous, youthful energy and spirit. While that very spirit is to some lesser degree present on the Prisms’ sophomore effort, In Between, the new album finds the band honing their chops at composition, or, if anything, letting the instrumentation behind their arrangements have room to breathe, sans those inundations of sound that seemed to so effortlessly serve to help conjure up the carelessness of late — or very stubbornly late — adolescence.
For one, In Between’s opener, titled “Floating In Blue,” plays at a slower tempo than anything on Friends, and co-vocalist Stefanie Hodapp’s singing has a peaceful and calming effect not unlike Belinda Butcher or Rachel Goswell’s. Indeed, “Blue” could almost be mistaken for a sleepy demo or outtake from Isn’t Anything. On the following track, “Dead Flowers,” the percussion picks up, but only a little bit, and those dirty, corrosive slabs of guitar still manage to sound compact and distinct, having not fully melded into any sonic deluge the band seemed to be so fond of using before. This isn’t to say that any ‘walls’ or ‘deluges’ have been done away with altogether; they’re still present on pretty much every song, providing an indiscernible background underlayer to the more prominent and distinctly audible instrumentation. For the album’s fourth track, “Four Hours (Away),” which plays like a 50s slow dance prom tune (or something thereabouts), those layers partially merge into dense currents of sound/noise that build up when Hodapp sings “People keep letting me know/ I should be letting you go/ But I don’t care what they say, anyway” in subdued resignation. In much the same fashion, ninth track “To Touch You” trudges defiantly on with grinding guitars, accompanied by minimal synthesizers that add an appropriate dramatic effect to the song’s overall desperately romantic and fatalistic tone.
Even despite the many minor but notable transitions Young Prisms have undergone from their first album, In Between still contains its predecessor’s youthful spirit, if not exactly matching its energy. It’s evident that replacing those muddling walls of noise with a cleaner, distinct, and more organized approach to songwriting hasn’t affected the band’s knack for capturing the melody and feel of early shoegaze. And while the album isn’t any more original in offering than Friends was, this seems to be all that really matters, for the time being.