Music Reviews

Blouse Imperium

(Captured Tracks) Rating - 6/10

There’s an angelic air that floats throughout the length of Imperium, the new album from Portland indie rock band, Blouse.  It’s a resonating softness found mostly in the grace exuded by lead singer Charlie Hilton and you hear it within the first ten seconds of the title track, itself introduced by a Pixies-inspired bass throb and streaks of icy guitar sounds.  Acoustic strums add on as the electricity attempts to sharpen the air around its construct in an effort to add an edge to what might otherwise be considered “dreamy.”  This remains a pursuit that runs throughout most of the album.

With Imperium, Blouse revels in the best aspects of 80s new wave and 90s alt-rock, taking jangle rock cues and post-punk stabs from the college radio daze that later informed much of what we hear in modern rock music.  Helmed by producer and band member Jacob Portrait (also of Unknown Mortal Orchestra), Imperium is awash in reverb, though its clarity is met through sonic textures and the prominence (and sometimes, dominance) of bass rhythm, the latter an especially effective device. 

Applied as urgent-when-necessary (Eyesight), distorted-just-enough (In A Glass) and high-timbre-sentimentality (Happy Days), the college rock paradigm the band utilizes remains intact and pleasant, though no longer very threatening or revelatory.  Songs like 1,000 Years and In A Feeling Like This make predictable turns and twists a little too consistent with the era that inspires their sound. 

With Capote and No Shelter, however, Blouse takes more opportunities to invent or enliven.  Capote, in particular, pulls bolero motifs, which offer an air of conviction interestingly complimentary to its Psychocandy sway.  Arrested boasts a nicely conceived array of guitar melodies preceding the album’s finale, demonstrating well this want of lush tones and creative depth.

Trust Me finishes the album with a cello’s throat moaning beneath shards of guitar sounds that fly like darts, piercing its layered tones and the busy rustling of a muffled hi-hat.  The song provides a decent enough end to a strong 36 minutes’ worth of delicacy, aided well by a singer whose voice shapes the music emotionally. 

While the move from synths to guitars allowed Blouse to explore another side of their sound, it didn’t enable them to make a leap forward creatively.  Imperium is more homage than innovation, and while it further preserves the integrity of early indie rock, it only hints that Blouse is more than a revival act.