For Fans Of
DUH! DUH! DUH! DUH! DUH! DUH! DUH! DUH!
That’s pretty much how ‘Pastel’ signals to you that England’s residential sadboiz are back in the game with a brand spanking new album, appropriately titled ‘Blush’ (if you couldn’t tell by the vibrant as all hell album cover). The record crashes into your ear drums before you even have a chance to prepare yourself for some soft emo-twinkly tunes. ‘Pastel’ serves as a great opener and one that heavily contrasts the band’s previous record’s intro of ‘Cherry’; a quiet and sombre guitar and vocal track. But oh shit, right here, you’ll get thrown into the chaos of major chords and catchy choruses from the instance you click play.
‘Honey’ and ‘Knuckles’, the album’s two leading singles, follow up ‘Pastel’ right away with their driving rhythm and penetrating lead guitar lines sailing over a powerful chorus. ‘Honey’ is one song that’s been stuck in my head since I first heard it over a month or so ago. Its chorus is one I often found myself screaming into my reflection in my kitchen window as I wait for the kettle to boil so I can make my sweet, sweet coffee. That sounds bizarre, and in some ways worrisome for my mental health but trust me, it’s nothing but a sign that the song’s hook does its job too goddamn well.
Things get a tad bit indie-rock on ‘Sulk’, almost to the point where it sounds only but a few BPM off of The Killers track, ‘All These Things I’ve Done’. But that song is baller, and so is ‘Sulk’ so I ain’t gonna complain. It chills things out a bit before we head back into the chorus driven songs itching to be sung in the live setting as angsty teenagers jump around pathetically to the rhythm.
That being said, the problem this album suffers from is a serious lack of self-analysis. Because if you’re not paying attention, you can find yourself mixing up the names of the songs as they all start to bleed into each other. The songs usually begin like this; opening guitar line before an instrumental section that softens up to a verse, that goes into a chorus, that then goes back to a slightly bigger or more intense verse that goes back into the chorus that goes into a bridge that then goes back into a somewhat bigger chor- and oh good god, the universe is collapsing in on itself!
So yes, it all becomes very samey after a just few spins through the record. It sounds like I didn’t like the middle chunk of ‘Blush’ but in actuality I fucking love it. These are some of the best songs ol’ Moosey have written, but as a cohesive unit of songs, the similarities in form and structure does leave a little more to be desired.
Thankfully, we get more than the usual template when we hit the slow burner of ‘Shimmer’. What I initially thought was going to be the album’s ballad and obligatory “ultra-sad-song” turned into so much more when out of absolutely nowhere the song launches into a post-rock, Caspian-esque wall of sound. It’s filled with screeching tremolo guitars and a hauntingly powerful arrangement that washes over you and weighs you down in the way only that good music can. This serves a huge contrast to the rest of the record’s standardised emo/pop-punk style and in some ways allows the misgivings of the record’s familiarity by showing that the band is far more than just a one trick pony.
The album’s themes are in no way as heavy or as daunting as those from their debut, albeit being very similar themes in and of themselves. Vocalist Eddy Brewerton talks of his married life and his step-daughter, amongst other musings of young love, substance abuse and death. The latter is something the band only briefly touch upon in the penultimate track of ‘Spring’. The songs act in ways similar to ‘Cherry’ did from the first record; the guitars and the vocals make your mind wonder and ponder upon what’s actually being said, which frankly sucks because I’ll be damned if this song isn’t still tugging at my feels every spin of this release. There’s something so utterly heart wrenching and destructive about the way Brewerton sings “And the way you died, did it hurt at all?” It’s blunt and almost forceful, yet I think in an age where we never seem to say what we really mean to our fellow humans, it’s somewhat refreshing. There’s no motif or symbol or bullshit allegory that frames the song’s meaning – it’s sharp and to the point, much like the rest of this album.
The one thing that stands out to me on ‘Blush’, above all else, is just how goddamn pretty it sounds. Every song is filled to the brim with lush guitar tones and harmonies along with killer vocal hooks that just swim so easily through your ears. The records warmth, created by its heavy use of major keys and classic chord progressions, is phenomenal in that every song invites you in. It’s easy listening, but it’s easy listening done fucking beautifully. My countless replays of this record attest to that; even though I am completely and utterly emo/pop-punk trash. Despite the over-used formula here, ‘Blush’ was a record I couldn’t help but fall in love with over and over again for all the reasons above and more that I can’t be arsed listing.
I usually hate this part of the review. I’ve said all that I’ve needed to say above, so here’s a cinnamon roll recipe.
For the Dough:
1 cup whole milk
one 1/4-ounce packet active dry yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
1/4 cup plus 1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the bowl
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
For the Filling:
All-purpose flour, for dusting
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the pan
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
For the Glaze:
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Make the dough: Warm the milk in a medium saucepan over low heat until it reaches about 100. Remove from the heat and sprinkle in the yeast and 1/4 teaspoon sugar (don’t stir). Set aside until foamy, 5 minutes. Whisk in the melted butter, egg yolk and vanilla.
Whisk the flour, the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, the salt and nutmeg in the bowl of a stand mixer. Make a well in the center and pour in the yeast mixture. Mix on low speed with the dough hook until thick and slightly sticky. Knead on medium speed until the dough gathers around the hook, 6 minutes. (Add up to 2 more tablespoons flour if necessary.)
Remove the dough and shape into a ball. Butter the mixer bowl and return the dough to the bowl, turning to coat with butter. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, 1 hour 15 minutes.
Roll out the dough, fill and cut into buns (see instructions below). Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan; place the buns cut-side down in the pan, leaving space between each. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, 40 minutes. Preheat the oven to 325.
Bake the buns until golden brown, about 35 minutes. Cool in the pan 15 minutes. Meanwhile, make the glaze: Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a bowl, then whisk in the cream and melted butter. Transfer the buns to a rack and spoon the glaze on top while still warm.
How to Form Cinnamon Buns:
1. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 12-by-14-inch rectangle with the longer side facing you.
2. Spread with the softened butter, leaving a 1/2-inch border on the far long edge. Mix the sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over the butter.
3. Brush the unbuttered far edge with water. Roll the dough away from you into a tight cylinder and press on the long edge to seal.
4. Cut the cylinder with a sharp knife to make 6 equal-size buns.