Cafe Racer – Shadow Talk

Shadow Talk is a hypnotizing swirl of haze and color. The Chicago indie quintet Cafe Racer released their third LP with an overall improved group. The band has been slowly realizing their sound from 2018’s introspective Famous Dust, but this latest offering is a giant leap forward from that. Jangly guitar riffs intertwine with effervescent shoegaze, psychedelic colors are strung together with a tight-knight rhythm section. They seemed to have overcome the challenges of expanding into a five-piece here, as despite the myriad of sonic elements used in each track, it still manages to feel cohesive and full. 

“Second Coming” opens up with spidery riffs and an all-encompassing jangly dissonance. Singer Michael Santana croons in soft and languid tones, heralding the band’s arrival in a smoky nirvana. “Zenith” is Cafe Racer at its most urgent and rhythmic, carried by drummer Elise Poirier and bassist Rob McWilliams on a pulsing tightrope. The guitar interplay sways the tension from side to side with blistering energy, while still maintaining the mesmerizing air that Shadow Talk is so full of.

“Faces” is our first taste of the band’s smooth psychedelia. Santana’s vocals are drenched in thick delay, creating a dimensional space for the guitars to flow around. This track has the side effect of uncontrollable dancing, and is best enjoyed with neon lights and lava lamps. “Russian Blue” could be a Bond theme if the franchise adopted a more neo-noir aesthetic. Seductive vocals are blended with aqueous riffs. The result is a velvety number that’s smoother than a swig of whiskey. “Breathing” finds the guitars of Santana, Andrew Harper and Adam Schubert melding into a whirlpool of color. Each shade coalescing into a misty soundscape that will lift you off the edge of your seat. 

The title track ends with a sprawling meditation. Cafe Racer’s instruments  blend into one unit. The airyness from the previous tracks condenses to a more solid indie rock sound. But by the track’s midpoint, a huge cloud of shoegaze is downcast and wraps up mix. It ebbs and flows, peeking in and out of small pockets. Filling every space of this 10 minute epic.

Shadow Talk is a collection of textures. You’ll have rich, airy and raw sounds intertwined together within the sections of each song. You can tell that a lot of thought and discipline came into crafting this album, as it would have been very easy to make it busy and overbearing. Cafe Racer is one to look out for, whether you’re into light background listening or are interested in expansive soundscapes.


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