The latest album from South California’s Adult Books is a well-rounded collection of post-punk, dream pop, 80’s new wave and the spectrum that surrounds it. Grecian Urn seemingly ticks off what audiences expect from these styles – sun-soaked melodies, fuzzy guitars, a bit of jangle and bittersweet emotions. All while creating moments that are completely unique in their combination. I thoroughly enjoyed how this record evolved and changed ever so slowly with each track, keeping me guessing and entertained by its variety up until the end.
“Innocence” sets up a feel-good rock vibe with its churning riffs and bright melodies. Yet the presence of glistening synths and a low chugging baritone vocal pulls the harmonies to a darker undertone, signaling that there’s more to Adult Books than meets the eye.
This paid off immensely in the title track. Where somber synth beats and haunting vocals swerve the band into new wave territory, yet it still makes sense within the context of the songs that came before. This nimble yet sensible shift in their sound is what kept me on the hook and glued to my headphones.
“Holiday” floored me yet again with its urgent punk that’s tinged with rainy melancholy. There’s a duality to it that I can’t keep my finger on — but I’m all for it! “Florence” is a perfect dreamy pop song with a classic 80’s sheen. It’s easy to miss the intricacies of the song’s riff work as they are so sparsely added together to match the vocal melody, but it all blends so wonderfully together that I latched on to it on repeat listens.
The second half of the record also boasts my favorite “100 Dreams”. It’s a song of loneliness and longing while having upbeat and energetic riffs, the kind of bittersweet emotions I get when watching sad movies or flipping through old photographs. With sounds calling back to the 80’s and 90’s, these types of nostalgic themes are very effective when done with great care and the band is capable enough to add their own spin to it.
The album ends with “Sparrows on the Razor Wire”. This is the song with the most ups and downs on the record in terms of emotional weight. The sound feels bolder and meatier, it’s hard not to get immersed in its groove. Even to the end, Adult Books still manages to pull some surprises.
If you’re looking for a gut-punch of classic dream pop and post-punk with a wealth of great moments and emotions, Grecian Urn is something you should check out.