Windy & Carl Songs for the Broken Hearted

[Kranky; 2008]

Styles: space rock, dream pop, drone, shoegaze
Others: Stars of the Lid, Labradford, Fennesz

Windy & Carl's music is so unassuming that it's easily taken for granted. Their mastery of that milky genre ‘space rock” is one that pitches them as a somewhat laid-back answer to the more torrential leanings of their kindred spirits in the shoegaze (or nugaze) movement, like My Bloody Valentine or M83. As such, they may at first listen appear to many as background music. But this is only a surface impression; fans of Windy & Carl's work have undoubtedly uncovered their modest intensity through attentive listenings, which is required for music of this variety. While there may not be much of the rock ferocity typically conveyed with strong percussion, accelerated tempos, or histrionic vocals, emotion comes in the crafting of sonic textures using a fairly limited palette of electric guitar, bass, limited keyboards, bells, and subdued vocals.

In fact, if there is a stylistic shift on Songs for the Broken Hearted, it is the increasing prominence of the vocals. Windy Weber's breathy voice is woven into several of these tracks to stunning effect, bringing more emotional clarity and depth to the music than in past efforts. Obviously, the very title of the album maps the general terrain of love and loss, but the lyrics guide the listener through multiple registers within this broad thematic field. This is especially true when the mix allows the vocals to stand out, as they do in "Forever," which plays rather complexly with notions of time, language, and jealousy. To be sure, even on this track, there's much room left for the reverberating music to forge its own meanings, but contacting these sentiments expressed in words so directly adds a depth that wasn't present in previous works.

Still, Songs for the Broken Hearted is primarily built on the hazy analog drone for which Windy & Carl have become known. While there are some unsettling emotions being mined here, the general mission is one of melting these impulses into waves of sound that, while they can still be felt, become less sharply painful and more intoxicating. These songs could easily double as music to leave on low while attending to other tasks, but you owe it to yourself to turn up the volume and focus your attention. There's much to be gained.

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