White Poppy - Paradise Gardens
When did Shoegaze become so cool again? Yeah yeah, I realise Canadian Crystal Dorval, the driving force behind White Poppy, has been diligently doing her thing since 2012, so what I really mean is, why has her dreamy Pop suddenly come into earshot now? I think Slowdive can take some credit, their reunion in 2014 generated a lot of excitement in electronic music circles. Then there's Helen, the Liz Harris-fronted band that produced the perfect Shoegaze tribute album The Original Faces in 2015 (it struck a chord with me with its booming bass-lines and walls-of-guitar ambience). Having a hip label like Not Not Fun releasing your music obviously helps spread the love. And of course, let's not forget, the best trends (or musical waves) re-emerge every few years anyway, so perhaps now's a good time for fans, new and old alike, to (re)acquaint themselves with a pleasing genre.
So what makes Paradise Gardens, the sixth album from White Poppy, actually Shoegaze? The vast, double-tracked vocals, rich and dubby, elegantly floating and filling any space left by the chiming, multi-layered guitars is key. And when these aspects converge, that My Bloody Valentine (MBV) wall-of-sound effect is perfectly realised. The result is a sound drenched in waves of ambient noise where vocals and guitars are weighted equally; a sound not invigorating or challenging, like MBV can be, but instead trading in warmer, swooning melody and easy-on-the-ear instrumentation.
For all the Shoegaze references, I think the biggest influence at play here is The Velvet Underground. The opening chords of Something Sacred and Sweet Jane share that luscious, chiming ring, while Memories with its wistful, melodic top-line and double-tracked backing vocals is Velvets to the core. Like the most popular Velvet tracks, Paradise Gardens is an effortless listen (40mins/10tracks = perfect album statistics) showing that Dorval is confident and comfortable with her musical pursuits, even if the subject matter darkens at times. A welcome addition to the Shoegaze canon.
- Rating: 7/10
- Listens: 15
- Highlight: Memories
- Label: Not Not Fun
- Release Date: 24th April 2020