Willie Reviews Postcards’s “The Good Soldier”

Willie Reviews Postcards’s “The Good Soldier”

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Lebanese dream pop trio Postcards climbs to a thundering peak and comes back down again on their second album, The Good Soldier. Here’s RPM’s review:

The album cover of The Good Soldier promises absolute stillness. All the thought floating in that empty room is as light as the air surrounding, so it hangs and hangs interminably. Instead of motion and action, we’re drawn to the secondary drama, the light seeping through the curtains and staining the wall. A little picture frame hang inside a larger frame, which is itself housed by the frame of the album cover. If you sense some other oblique emotion in the image, you’re likely not wrong. The band presents themselves without any evidence of their existence. Like so many other dream pop acts, Postcards is after that simmering feeling that doesn’t need to be shouted.

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So it’s surprising when the album begins with a huge sound that tears that idea of dream pop to shreds. Though the genre has always been a misnomer, rarely following conventional pop structures, it usually at least lacks dramatic stabs. The sound that introduces The Good Soldier is drama of the first degree. “Dead End” arrives in a flowy shroud, but an aggressive guitar squeals out a set of even accents. After building to that climax, the initial drifting quality takes on a continuously tense feeling. “Fossilized” takes the energy in a similar direction, going for more of a yearning arena rock vibe à la Arcade Fire. It’s the kind of echoing, urgent music that will likely never find its way into an arena, but that’s not the point. “Spiderwebs” prefers a grittier, upbeat surf rock feel with phrases like “until my lungs explode” and a Strokes-type guitar solo. When Postcards embraces the energetic feeling, they seem to invariably get it right.

After the diegetic break of “At Home,” the band’s oversized sound to start fades away. What returns is a more classical idea of slow tempo indie rock. But it feels like a shift more than a loss. The titular track is the first moment of relaxation. What vibrancy and enthusiasm did for the previous tracks, simple melody does for this. “Last Resort” is more proof of the importance of melody overall in slower, trance-like dream pop. We’re being pulled along by our narrator through the thick sludge, and the direction of the melody is a helpful guiding light. We latch onto the slight shifts and intoxicating turns of phrase. And I suppose this is the “pop” of dream pop: a universal attraction to floating without direction.

Julia Sabra, Pascal Semerdjian and Marwan Tohme. Photo from Bandcamp.

What remains throughout many of these tracks is the initial aggressiveness channeled into deep focus. The strange hunt for loudness becomes the equally confusing hunt for contemplation and existential answers. And by the end, the band has completely abandoned their anger. “Little Lies” is unapologetically slow—just on the edge of unbearably so. But it couldn’t be any other way. The edge remains in vocalist Julia Sabra’s desperate, searching voice, but all else flows away in the runoff. One explanation for Postcards’s shifting tone is that the band is succumbing to the understated aesthetic of the cover. Stimulus may exist, but its effects even out over time. That is to say no noise makes any sound, like a wine glass in a mattress ad. Using quiet, perfectly formed phrases, they state this in a way less pessimistic and more ascetic.

Score: #8F6C72

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