In 2011, California-native Justin Vallesteros released his debut album, Idle Labor, under the name Craft Spells. Craft Spells is one of many bedroom solo projects to recently join the ranks of New Wave revivalists making music today, but Idle Labor‘s rhythm and sense of urgency distinguished it from others. A year later and Vallesteros is releasing six new dreamy, synth-pop songs in the format of an EP: Gallery.
Gallery starts off with a quick-tempo, giving listeners the impression that there’s no time to waste. Like on his previous effort, the songs of this EP appear to be a call to someone, with a desperation that implies that “someone” is anyone who will listen. Vallesteros’ voice echoes out, sleepy and distant, lyrics about feeling isolated and obsolete. In “Still Left With Me,” he sings, “the nights are so sweet, when we ignore the misery/ the silence passed, there’s warmth at last/ and you’re still left with me.” The next track, “Warmth” is a little too akin to New Order’s “Ceremony” for my own comfort, but if that can be ignored, it’s a genuinely solid pop song and one of the best tracks of the EP.
“Leave My Shadow” has a dance vibe that would make it sound perfectly at home in a catalog of 80’s Brit-Pop, with morose vocals and interesting electronic percussion. The title track is a subdued, repetitive number. Vallesteros clearly hasn’t used Gallery to experiment or carve a new path, but rather to nestle comfortably into the aesthetic he created on Idle Labor. The songs remain straight-forward, compelling pop songs with lots of layers, occasional funk rhythms, and vibrating vocals. Fans of older bands like the Smiths and New Order, or more recent acts such as Twin Shadow or Wild Nothing, will appreciate what Craft Spells has to offer.