A wife-and-husband duo, Pale Hands hail from Massachusetts playing warm and sultry dream pop laid over several walls electronic beats and melodic hooks. Their debut, Spirit Lines,is as frontwoman Jen Johnson puts it, a “place to express my pop side,” a record whose uncomplicated nature belies the multitude of background sounds and noises. It is a multifaceted listen, yet simultaneously simple and direct, with the all the melodious appeal of pop but with the style and sound of a much less mainstream album.
The formula proposed on Spirit Lines is simple: soulful, emotional music layered with tightly blended guitar and keyboards and light, airy percussion with abundant cymbal work. This takes varying forms, such as the fluttering opener “Locust,” the danceable “Tied Up,” the bittersweet and eerie “Juventud,” or the uptempo yet curiously somber “Seismic.” There is a fair balance between more plain and direct pop pieces, such as the ones mentioned above, and tracks with more obscure and ethereal sounds. Examples are the primal, beginning-of-time anthem “Elemental” and the equal parts soulful and robotic “Fanatic.” This, however, does not seem to be the product of obsessive effort, and rather radiates off the songs naturally, as if part of a single, symbiotic creative spurt.
Spirit Lines is an effort with little to criticize and little to really make note of either. With the exception of a few snippets here and there, this record isn’t anything that hasn’t really been heard before, or at least, doesn’t strive to send any particularly unique vibes. However, its success lies in delivering music that is as organic as it is synthetic, a feat that is not easily achieved. All in all, this balance makes for a listen that touches both the listener’s heart and main switchboard, putting them at ease in a carefully measured but spontaneous way.