Cohesive debuts are few and far between. Here is an album in the ruff: the Mezzanine Owls are sure-footed in their fledgling sound, which is all the more grown-up for standing on the shoulders of giants like R.E.M. and The Jesus and Mary Chain. As a Los Angeles based band, the Owls sound native to Southern California about as much as Pink Martini sounds indigenous to Portland. What they do sound like: Silver Jews, My Bloody Valentine, Built to Spill, and Slowdive.
The Owls (Jack Burnside, Pauline Mu, Jonathan Zeitlin, and Dan Horne) recorded this album with Andy LeMaster, who has also lent his helping hands to Bright Eyes and Azure Ray. A multitude of comparisons and descriptive words for Slingshot Echoes beg to be chosen from: psychadelic, pseudo-britpop, shoegazer. It is pretty, dreamlike, and at once melodically haunting and optimistic.
Uniformly hypnotic, the album hits its high-water mark early on with “Lightbulb.” The song breaks into a euphoric chorus with a warm adrenal ambiance running throughout. Each melodious tune is layered with a seemingly indefatigable supply of reverb—this, and each time a tambourine is lazily slapped against a palm somewhere in the background, conjure visions of Mazzy Star.
“A Draft” is another gem, in part because it offers an alternative to the recurring formula that pervades the album. The songs build momentum like steam locomotives, but the end result is usually the same: loud, indistinct, and muddied. It’s a thin line between uniformity and redundancy, and by the end of the album it leans towards the latter. The thick, melodious fog tends to swallow the delicate vocals, making the prettied, poignant lyrics barely audible. But every now and again, the fragile words, like patches of starry sky, peek out through a break in the clouds. In order to catch these moments, listen to this album with headphones. Nice ones. Afterwards, you may experience a slight, persistent humming in your brain where these unrelenting, soaring pop melodies used to be.