Like Grizzly Bear and The Shins rolled into one, Secret Cities play psychedelic sunshine pop of decidedly hazy, woozy type. Their new record sounds like the 60s have never really been away, with only its lo-fi indieness and inventive, Vampire Weekend-inspired arrangements distinguishing Strange Hearts from the past.
This album is Secret Cities’ sophomore release, and Strange Hearts should be viewed as a direct continuation of 2010’s Pink Graffiti. Only it is even more retro this time, much of it sounding like The Seekers gone acid or Phil Spector gone all artsy and futuristic. But the sound is very comforting.
The lovely falsetto vocals, both male and female, wallow deliriously through these harmony-filled, stoned-pop tunes. When the melodies are strong (‘Brief Encounter’, ‘The Park’) – it works perfectly; sadly though, it is not always the case. There’s just not enough meat to it. Far too often the singing tends to get lost amid their fluffy, shaky wall of sound – heavy on backing vocals, light noise, acoustic guitars and relatively creative percussion.
In the end you can’t get rid of the nagging feeling that Secret Cities simply lack guts and conviction. That you can’t just do it on style alone. But if “lovely” is your idea of greatness, then there’s no reason why you should skip it. Or if you feel nostalgic – the vibe is there in spades.
Released on 6th June 2011 by Western Vinyl