The latest release from LA trio Smokescreens entitled A Strange Dream is anything but strange. These songs are jaunty, filled with hooky pop melodies and glittering guitar soundscapes. The kind of songs you want to put on when you’re feeling tired or stressed out and want to catch a break. These are comfy indie pop songs influenced by the wonderful roster from New Zealand’s Flying Nuns label, so you know you’ll get a jangly great time. Perhaps the title alludes to the strangeness of our current situation, where everyone is wondering when the dream will end. And honestly, music like this makes the ordeal not too bad at all.
This record is a slight departure from their 2018 debut Used to Yesterday, which harbored a grittier indie rock sound. Here the guitars are more cleaned up and well defined, with the focus being on the melodies and glistening soundscapes. “Fork in the Road” opens with a pleasant and cheerful jangle, with vocal melodies seamlessly blending with the guitars and dripping like sweet honey from a jar. The upbeat “On and On” has the best sounding riffs in this record, perfectly mingling with the rhythm section to create a calm and glittering atmosphere.
Within these fun and inviting songs there are also themes of the band’s political musings and struggles of adult life. “Working Title” talks about getting the 9-5 blues: “I just want the world to stop spinning around \ So I can take a break from the day-in and day-out”. The follow up “Streets of Despair” is the only time the band adapts a slightly grim and serious tone. This song centers on wealth inequality–where a rich person living in a penthouse stares down at someone living on the streets. One who is likely to have no chance to escape their plight.
Even faced with these grim realities, the band manages to brighten each track with delightful sounds that can lift the weight off your shoulders. This is most especially apparent in their ballads. “Nighttime Skies” is a soothing campfire lullaby that feels like a warm hug on a chilly day. The closing “I Love Only You” assures a loved one that they’ll be there for them even as the world falls down. With radiant riffs and harmonies like this. It’s hard to object.
Smokescreens shifts into a slightly different sound in their second release, yet they sound confidently within their comfort zone. A Strange Dream is a tad short, only coming at 8 tracks in 23 minutes, yet it leaves a strong and convincing punch.