Despite the resurgence of synthesizer-based bands in recent years, Albany has largely missed the blissed-out genre “chillwave” altogether. Which is ironic, given that what many New York City progenitors of the sound are attempting to romanticize looks a lot like our upstate summers. It’s not surprising, then, that an Albany band—Titanics—would eventually come along and craft one of the genre’s great records.
Tagged variously on their Tumblr as “snowpop,” “shoegaze” and “life,” the trio clearly approach their poppier material from a background in deep, slow, spatial ambient music, not unlike Emeralds. They use this stuff to great effect on Soft Treasure, breaking up the vocal tunes with short, sun-baked interludes. Later in the record, longer instrumental pieces like “Clouds, Ponds, Myths” evoke downtempo techno artists like Tycho. The album would be enjoyable yet forgettable, like one of those halcyon summer daydreams the style evokes, were it not for the two pop gems sitting right at the front of the album (which streams for free at titanics.bandcamp.com). The opening synth hook on “Cars” is so gooey it begs to be played on repeat. A lesser band would work this riff for all its worth, but Titanics abandon it here like the parking space singer Mark Lombardo dares to vacate in the first verse, opting for a mini guitar climax from Derek Rogers and a web of percollating electronics, all in under 4 minutes. Opener “Low Frames” is no less impressive, with Lombardo crooning a melody worthy of an ’80s teen movie and Rogers selling the schmaltz with a totally straight face.
It’s Titanics’ (and chillwave’s) flirtation with ’80s kitsch that will be a dealbreaker for some listeners and this is probably why “Two Days” comes at the end of “Soft Treasure.” Unabashed in its use of celeste-effected keys and roll-the-credits electric drums, it’s actually reminiscent of “Beth/Rest,” the closing track of Bon Iver’s 2011 album that soured the deal for many of his fans. Lombardo’s vocals are verbed-out to gauzy effect and when Rogers’ guitar enters, it’s like a heaven-beam splitting the clouds. Hey, sometimes when it’s 14 degrees outside, this is exactly what the doctor ordered.