TV SETS: ELSEWHERE
Toronto three piece TV Sets’ Elsewhere EP comes across with an almost alien sound. I had to listen to this album four times before I decided how I felt about it. Lead vocalist Joshua comes across similar to a dreamy, whirling Ian Curtis, spewing almost accented and slurring vocals over low-fi masterpieces while somehow managing to string it all together. The result challenged me, but the more I listened the more I realized how much I enjoyed it. Individually, every song on the EP is solid. That said, however, the band thrives most at it’s most energetic where it evokes the energy of good 80s music with none of the dated sound oddities or jumpiness.
This energy is what makes the title track (and opener) of the EP stand out, with a jangling catchiness that drags out that damn 80s feel inside feel-good guitars and harmonies. This is the track that gave me the most pause, and is certainly the most challenging. The more you listen, the less brash the vocals become and the more it seems to fit perfectly inside the soundscape of a band inside someone’s lonely bedroom. They’re feel-good guitars, but the kind of feeling good that accompanies seeing the sun come out while trapped inside: with heavy melancholia.
“Feel Good” is tiptoeing, but the bassline drives the song and saves it from mediocrity, ushering in the lush choruses that ring among the introversion of the verses. The haziness is inescapable, and I could hardly imagine playing this song out loud for fear of others missing the experience of discovering it alone. The guitars are minimal here, but the little riffs make do among keyboards as the song resolves.
A pause, and then “Bet Against Me” opens. Even colder, and similarly minimal but with none of the dynamics of the previous track-- building melodies among the synths paint loneliness, and while it may be too slow for the band to really shine, the singer nails this one more than any other. In my mind, it cements the singer as the puzzle piece in the middle of the band’s songwriting, fitting in perfectly despite seeming irregular and ill-fitting during Elsewhere’s early moments.
“Perfume” is, unfortunately, an almost identical song. Well, obviously not, but plenty of punches fall short as the dynamics mirror “Bet Against Me,” but the band’s enjoyable sense of melody keeps the tune playable. The keyboards drone, and the guitars strum, and the result is competent yet regrettably, forgettable. The outro and accompanying guitar effects are bright and inventive, and luckily pleasing to the ear.
Kicking in with a constant beat, “Some New Kick” is nowhere near the song “Elsewhere,”but essentially cements the idea that TV Sets shines best when opting for dreampop. The chorus comes like a warning, the verses swing like punches, and the song’s beautiful tension releases like a dopamine drip. “Eat your heart, eat your heart,” Joshua sings (slightly disturbingly, but forgivably because the song’s damn good) and he captures your eardrums with an earworm that’s disappointingly the second-to-last track.
So the time comes and “Duck Goose” opens. You’re stillcurious about “Elsewhere,” you’ve added “Feel Good” to your new playlist, and you’ve confused the calm tracks “Bet Against Me” and “Perfume.” How does the final track fall? Pleasantly in the middle. Less of an end and more of a continuation, it simply affirms the album’s place and sound, managing to rescue a softness inside a great indie rock tune and solidifying the oh-so pleasing momentum to end the EP on a nice note. The ending of this track is the perfect send-off to an album like this. Just saying.
In the end, the alien-ness of Elsewhere is charming, and TV Sets comes off as an extremely promising band. The Sets win me over with the handful of tracks that were more than decent. They entail a good future for the Canadian band, and in the steps of dreampop and bedroom music masters Teen Suicide they may follow. This said, while what’s presented here has a clear sound, it isn’t concrete and I can’t honestly see where else they could go next except surprise me. I’m excited to see what happens next with TV Sets, and if they tour the States, I’ll pick up their ticket.