In The Valley Below: The Belt

For L.A. duo In The Valley Below, getting emotional is not contradictory to a stylish and glamorous sound. In fact, the band combines the two vividly to formulate a record that is equal parts sentimental and danceable, and where neither obstructs the other, but rather flow together in the same direction. Their debut LP, The Belt, is a versatile collection of synthpop where themes such as sex, crime and religion are dealt with in a very personal, day-to-day perspective.

The album’s core structure is direct and simple, with a few layers of a wall of sound created by various keyboards and constant vocal duets by members Jeffrey Jacob and Angela Gail. Slow and dark basslines accompany synth hooks evenly throughout, and punchy but contained guitar phases in and out add more edge at times. Opening with “Peaches,” a melancholic pop piece with an infectious groove and glamour, The Belt immediately combines soulful themes with dancing beats. Many tracks on the album follow in this direction. The tracks “Neverminders,” “Last Soul” and “Stand Up” delve into synthpop with a style similar to Metric, but in complete L.A. fashion. Songs are also added in to soften things up, such as the tinkering and dark “Hymnal” and the closing electronic ballad “King Tide,” where the group opts for a more purely sentimental mood. Present on every number is a vocal collaboration where the duo sometimes tags each other in engaging storytelling and retorts, or as in the case of “Dove Season” and “Lover,” takes the form of passionate harmonizing.

A stunning piece of work, In The Valley Below’s debut delivers gut-punching emotion with foot-tapping synthpop. It is at times raw and primal, but always surrounded by lush melodies. A swirling and powerful soundtrack for those who are not afraid of even their darkest emotions and to dance with the punches

In A Word: Sultry