Gauntlet Hair Stills – Album Review

Gauntlet Hair are Andy R and Craig Nice. Andy R is the master behind the guitar and vocals while Craig Nice is in charge of the drums and triggers. The duo who combine to make Gauntlet Hair are due to release their new album Stills on July 15. Recorded during Portland, Oregon’s grey winter days in producer Jacob Portrait’s (Unknown Mortal Orchestra) appropriately named studio “The Cave,” the album reveals Gauntlet Hair’s guileless affection for the goth industrialists and post-punks who blazed a shadowy path through the 80s and 90s.

After moving back to their home-town of Chicago last year, Craig and Andy looked to their teenage selves for inspiration. Nice explains: “I started listening again to the stuff I would have in my discman in the back of my mom’s car; White Zombie, Marilyn Manson — the production on those records is so amazing. Nothing sounds like that anymore.”

Gauntlet Hair

Gauntlet Hair

Mining that nostalgia has proved effective and the result is that Stills is a garden of dark delights. Gauntlet Hair manage to allow their listeners to lose their mind and body to their entrancing music. As the listener you are transported to a dark, spacious room where there is nothing but huge speakers and loud intoxicating melodies bursting through them. Gauntlet Hair have that ability to help you zone out and immerse yourself into their world of music.

Human Nature is a dark track to start an album with although it is incredibly chilled out at the same time. It doesn’t actually set the scene for the next few tracks which are much more electrifying and energetic. Gauntlet Hair do have a slight Electronica feel to their music and it’s especially present in Human Nature. The song gradually builds with the drum beat increasing and the deeper synth tones also becoming more intense. Juxtaposing these intense elements are the vocals which are surprisingly calming.

The second track Spew is a lot more upbeat than its previous number. It’s a real party track with those post-punk/rock influences being heard. The vocals are gravelly yet also higher pitched than the last track which starts to show off Andy’s great rock-star voice, especially in the chorus – it will send a flow of passionate energy through your body. Spew is a punchy track that will get you dancing.

Bad Apple is the latest single to be taken from Stills. Bad Apple takes the album back to its chilled roots as the track is full of relaxing synth tones and far off sounding vocals which all help to make this track more serene. There’s a strong 80s feel to Bad Apple due to the drum machine’s beat. The chorus “My god it’s another bad apple” will go round and round in your head after just a few listens due to the mesmerising melodies.

Obey Me sounds like something from a sci-fi thriller. It starts slow with the haunting, innocent vocals. It’s sort of a like an interlude track that leads to Heave which is a brilliant rock influenced track which has passionate, almost angry sounding vocals. The guitar riff is very Kenny Loggins in the 80s but even so, Heave is a kick ass rock track that’s not to be missed. Heave sounds more real than the other songs on Stills – there’s less synth and more real instruments being played.

G.I.D has clearer vocals than the rest of the songs on the record. It has a fantastic sombre and almost stoned beat throughout the song; it’s really dark yet pleasant. As a listener it makes you feel spaced out and almost as if you’re floating above the clouds. This is definitely one of those tracks that transports you to the dark, empty room with just you and the speakers. The lyrics are intriguing and memorable in G.I.D, “You are the one/The one I want/I don’t care how it’s done…You stole my heart right out of my chest…Carved your heart right into my chest/And you mentioned stress of your G.I.D complex yeah/I told you/ they say…oooh”. It has the best lyrics on the album – there’s something about this song that instantly draws you in and captivates you.

Falling Out is completely different from the other songs on Stills. There’s an acoustic guitar that can be heard clearly at the beginning that suddenly changes to an electric guitar with a great melody that’s expressed vocally. The way the layers get introduced and compliment each other in this track is spot-on. The lyrics, “Falling out of love with you/Falling out of love with you…” are accompanied by more real music with the synth enhancements taking more of a back seat. It uses a brilliant drum beat and tempo that get you feeling good despite the slightly depressing message.

Although Stills is an interesting album that defies categorisation, the whole album does begin to sound like one, sometimes it’s hard to distinguish when one song finishes and the next begins. There’s not a lot of distinction between the tracks. However, in a strange way it helps the album to retain that spaced out feel – you can become really immersed in the songs without the interruption of sudden and dramatic changes in influences.

Stills is a record that cannot be placed easily into one category – it seems to be Andy R’s and Craig Nice’s take on post-punk experimentation in the noughties. It’s more than impressive and should be listened to at least once even if it’s not usually your sort of thing.

Stills is out on July 15 through Dead Oceans.

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