Slowdive, "Slowdive" (Dead Oceans)
Slowdive's eponymous album arrives after a 22-year gap and sees the hazy shoegazers join the rare breed of successful comebacks, their envelope of sound delivered with an easy aplomb.
The band has been playing live again since 2014 and their 8-track album proves it wise to record new material only after those experiences.
Building on the songwriting prowess of singer-guitarist-keyboard player Neil Halstead, Rachel Goswell (vocals), Christian Savill (guitar), Nick Chaplin (bass) and Simon Scott (drums and loops) sometimes sound slightly poppier than usual and more widely spread out in their trademark sonic space.
If opener "Slomo" applies reverb to enhance diffusion, the animated "Star Roving" is reverb as a tool of commotion.
"Sugar for the Pill" is why dream pop is a shoegaze synonym while "Everyone Knows" showcases Goswell's delicate singing below the layers.
The album closes with the eight-minute "Fallen Ashes," a slow, deep immersion with an insistent piano similar to a Ryuichi Sakamoto film score. It would have been at home on "Pygmalion," the last of the band's three albums before the sojourn and carries the hopeful message that despite loneliness and heartbreak, even thinking about love is better than avoiding or ignoring it altogether.
Like the long-awaited returns from extended leaves of absence by My Bloody Valentine or Portishead, Slowdive build on their legacy with a finely tuned effort that ably escapes mere nostalgia and sounds like a couple of decades passed in just a few days.
If this was just like, or even better than, starting over, maybe they'll soon be working on that difficult second, I mean, fifth album.