Omaha's Icky Blossoms are an electropop band whose debut called to mind acts like The XX and seemed to fit a very particular moment in time. It was produced by Dave Sitek from TV on the Radio, and it was a pretty cool, dark synth album. On 'Mask', their second offering, Icky Blossoms have gone wildly eclectic, and it is fantastic.
The album's first song, 'In Folds', begins with a fidgety, twisty techno intro before bursting into a funky, retro, almost Blondie-esque verse. The chorus builds on this with a glorious amount of hooks and melodies - there is so much going on here it will make your head spin.
Next up is 'Phantasmagoria', which takes in a much more rock flavour, with live drums rather than processed beats and feedback laden guitars seemingly indefinitely sustaining notes. There is an interesting interplay between the female led verses and the male led chorus which helps this song to be perhaps the most immediate thing they've ever created.
In fact, one of the strengths of 'Mask' is that it has so much exquisite variety. There's sombre, contemporary pop like 'Away From You', the slow burning, dramatic building of 'Want You So Bad' and the soaring pop of 'Wait', which has a Depeche Mode kind of feel to it. There is also the sparse experimentation of 'Terror Nothing' and the almost industrial tones of 'The Spiral'. This album refuses to sit still.
This strength is also a weakness, however, and where 'Mask' falls down is largely in the sequencing. With so much variety on show, in places the album doesn't really hang together. That said, at only 9 tracks, Icky Blossoms have definitely left us wanting more. It feels like they just needed one more song on the end to draw together all the loose ends, rather than ending on the weird note that is the aforementioned 'Terror Northing'.
'Mask', then, is a fantastic little album, but it falls just short of being phenomenal. It builds on the strengths of their debut, goes to some new, interesting and weird places, and if you buy the CD it comes with 3D glasses to freak out to the crazy artwork with. It just feels like there's something missing that would bring the album full circle, rather than being just a collection of incredibly strong tunes.
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