Have you heard the new Coldplay record? Fuck, it’s boring. And that’s coming from a Coldplay fan.
After listening this week to the new Nice Places record, Delays, it was hard not to think Coldplay should have at least made something this interesting. Maybe it’s that lead singer Samuel Belanger takes Chris Martin’s semi-shouted trademark “oooh-oooh” backing vocals and makes them feel at home in something sounding like the rock band Coldplay used to be, instead of the wanna-be digital pop outfit they seem to have become.
Actually, Nice Places have a lot more prog in them than Coldplay ever will or did, and they still sound a lot like Minus the Bear with a dash of Yes, but this new record has a more aggressive bent to it, more of a leather-pants strut. The opening “Build a Palisade” sounds like something the Strokes could have done, with a jabbing guitar from Justin Shea, who wrote everything here and recorded the whole bit in his home studio, getting help from Noah Cole. The entire package might remind you most, locally, of the Satellite Lot records, especially in the production sound and the vocal treatment.
Belanger’s vocals are often in the middle of the mix, it’s true, which can make the lyrics hard to make out. But the drums are especially present, and are particularly well captured when Brendan Shea goes to the brushes in the instrumental “Mezzo Piano,” which does not actually include a piano, but does supply another trademark Nice Places atmospheric piece, which is plenty engaging without lyrics.
The 8-bit nod is well done in “Pink Cassette,” too, a seamless blur from digital throwback to ’80s indie teen ballad, calling to mind frilly, lace gloves and too much eye shadow. Even the lyrics fit: “You tell yourself, ‘Don’t worry/ It won’t be this way forever.’”
Finally, a piano does enter, in the closing “Busy Day,” where a low, left-hand-dominate entry gets ratcheted up in a hurry into a full-blown, all-lights-on-bright-white rock tune, with a thumping kick drum and a four-note guitar riff, low-low-high-high. This one’s a brooder, too: “And all at once, it’s easier to see/ That you won’t make it out alive.”
Really, it’s hard to escape this record once you’ve put it on. The songs spill effortlessly into one another and the 27 minutes goes by in a breeze of staring out the window.
Unlike that Coldplay record. Really? A “hidden track,” after three minutes of silence and it’s like a minute long and isn’t much of anything? What is this, 1994?
DELAYS | released by Nice Places on June 10 | niceplaces.bandcamp.com