Secret Cities are a indie-pop trio that come from throughout the USA. Instead of doing that thing that bands usually do, come together and record material, these three have produced music without ever actually living together in the same city. They’ve made two albums and singles via email, but for their latest release, Walk Me Home, the band came together to record and play together in San Francisco’s Tiny Telephone Studio.
Walk Me Home at first glance feels like a very personal release from this trio, with the instrumentation sounding very intimate and warm; the vocals are all as sweet as a honey trickle, the guitars and keys are bright, the bass is suitably from the 60s and the beats are minimal and perfect.
The vocals are a rather clever mixed bag of the sweet and chilling. On the track Paradise, the male vocals often sound like that of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, which was really striking, considering the rest general up-beat mood of the track. It’s on tracks like Paradise and Purgatory that we see some very western, soul like influences, with the lonely guitar and the flashes of strings in the distance.
This sound has rather divided me on what the album actually sounds like; with it’s sparks of desert-rock even creeping in, side by side with a bit of surf-rock. It makes for an interesting release, to say the least. The tracks where the piano is dominant take you off to a saloon in the middle of the desert; it’s tracks like Rooftop, Thumbs and The Cellar that break up what you’d expect from a band like Secret Cities.
Speaking of Thumbs, I love the instrumentation of this track, the way it grows with the plucks and vocals building the song up and when the cello comes in, forget about it. Thumbs grows in a very cinematic way, without feeling cheap or over-the-top, it gives you an atmosphere and again, it’s very well crafted. There’s also this killer bridge that comes in, about halfway through; some guitar starts strumming away, massively restrained in production, but this is good, it isn’t played so obtusely and aggressively that you lose the atmosphere that is built up through the rest of the song.
The title track, Walk Me Home, is utterly sublime the piano chords over-the-top of the stripped backed guitar makes for a very simple but striking combination. The vocals on this track carry the main melody and work fantastically, especially with the minimal backing vocals that hum away with it. The climax of Walk Me Home is well suited and, like the rest of the album, not overstated.
I love the rockier moments in this album, The Cellar has this groovy bass riff that plays over the piano, which makes a suitable change from all the piano, but it only sticks around for awhile. At this moment, I begin to think that maybe the album could have been broken up a bit better, had there been some more rockier dominant moments.
The tracks, It’s Always Winter and It’s Always Summer, work together to create, what I’d say is the signature sound of Secret Cities; a cinematic work of art that combines elements from unlikely sources to create a unique sound. Also, I really dug the ambient track at the end, Sun Enclosure. I’m not sure why, but this feels like the perfect way to end this album; something so ambient and peaceful that it feels like a field-recording. Bliss.
Walk Me Home is a beautiful album that showcases the many talents of three people that have created music over the challenges of daunting distances. This distance has helped them become aware of what makes each of them unique and how they should play to their strengths. This knowledge, overall, has led to much respect in a traditional recording environment and means that their chemistry can blossom and flourish into a beautiful album.
Secret Cities‘ third album, Walk Me Home, will be available on the 23rd of June through Western Vinyl. Check it out!