If thought-provoking lyrics, razor sharp harmonies and stylistic surprises are your thing, you’ll be pleased to find them in abundance on Blood/Candy.
As teenagers back in the late 1980s, The Posies contributed heavily to the creation of the ‘60s-influenced rock sub-genre now known as retro-pop. The Bellingham, WA quartet, led by lifelong friends Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow, was never swept up into the grunge winds that swirled around Washington during their early years. Instead, they chose to stay firmly on their own sonic path, remaining true to their personal style.
Now, 23 years later, that sense of originality is still what defines The Posies’ sound, and their seventh studio album Blood/Candy, out September 28th, clearly exemplifies the “evolve or perish” philosophy to which Auer and Stringfellow subscribe.
Unlike the band’s last release, 2005’s Every Kind Of Light, which was steeped in political themes like opposition to the Iraq war; Blood/Candy finds Auer and Stringfellow in a content, laid-back frame of mind. Recorded this past spring, its diverse material ventures into previously uncharted musical territory for The Posies, creating what Auer calls their most sophisticated and challenging body of work.
Additionally, for the first time ever, The Posies recruited vocalists from other bands, both past and present. British punk rocker and ex-Stranglers’ frontman Hugh Cornwell is featured on the quirky “Plastic Paperbacks,” the album’s opening track. Kay Hanley, formerly of the ‘90s band Letters To Cleo, sings on the very radio-friendly “The Glitter Prize.” Finally, Lisa Lobsinger of Broken Social Scene makes the harmonies extra sweet and sparkly on the album’s artfully crafted first single, “Licenses To Hide.”
In the middle of Blood/Candy’s 12-song lineup are a couple of back-to-back tasty gems, “So Caroline” and “Take Care of Yourself.” These songs strongly evoke the sunny, flowery pop sound for which the Posies will always be best known. In contrast, “For the Ashes,” a superb song filled with minor chords and stark, heavy keyboard, takes on a much darker tone. “Accidental Architecture” showcases the band’s previously under-exposed interest in jazz.
The album shines brightest on the tracks “She’s Coming Down Again” and “Notion 99,” both of which make Blood/Candy well worth its purchase price all by themselves. The former is a lush, multi-layered masterpiece with lots of twists and turns, and the latter is a highly-hummable, pulse-pounding rocker—also my personal favorite track.
If thought-provoking lyrics, razor sharp harmonies and stylistic surprises are your thing, you’ll be pleased to find them in abundance on Blood/Candy. It’s a highly ambitious, often risk-taking step forward from a consistently evolving band. According to Auer, The Posies’ goal is to “never make the same record twice.” So far, they’ve been a success. | Michele Ulsohn
RIYL: Death Cab for Cutie, Fountains of Wayne, Rooney