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Review: The Pastels/Tenniscoats Two Sunsets

The most exciting aspect of Two Sunsets is that it’s indie-pop legends The Pastels first recorded material since a 2003 soundtrack. That’s not a stab at the album in question – Two Sunsets, a collaborative effort with Japan’s Tenniscoats, comes off as a deliberately laid back effort at times bordering on the ambient. It’s a perfectly pleasant listen, but one so slow-paced you’d be hard-pressed not to wonder what’s next for one of the greatest twee bands ever.

The Pastels backed away from the shambly indie-pop they made famous in the ’80s awhile ago and move at a much slower pace now (musically and productively). The music on Two Sunsets doesn’t stray far from the Glasgow duo’s last effort, the soundtrack to the film The Last Great Wilderness, which focused on creating atmosphere over pop. Tenniscoats (who I’d never listened to before listening to this album, yet they are the reason this music makes the blog), meanwhile, sounds like they’ve been doing this type of sound all along. The results of the two group’s coming together can be found early on the tellingly-titled “Tokyo Glasgow,” dreamy noise in no particular rush to get anywhere.

Two Sunsets never sounds bad, but it also tends to blur all together. Stretches of this album just blend together and go on way too long – right out the gate, “Tokyo Glasgow,” the title track and “Song For A Friend” are all nice lazy songs (the latter an especially nice display of both band’s vocal chops), but the trio go on for almost 13 minutes without much development. This problem pops up at various other points, turning Two Sunsets from something you listen to into something you play in the background. A great soundtrack for Sunday chores, but not an enthralling listen.

A few songs do stand out. “Sodane” and the too-cute “Yomigaeru” breakaway from the album’s overly relaxed tone by picking up the pace ever so slightly. Although it clocks in at almost seven minutes, “Mou Mou Rainbow” carries a slow-dance vibe that pulls the listener in instead of making them tired. And then there’s “Vivid Youth,” its existence justifying this album completely. Pushed forward by Spring-time guitar and a jaunty drum-beat, “Vivid Youth” immerses itself in warmth that makes Katrina Mitchell’s lyrics stand-out even more. It’s one of the best indie-pop songs of the year, and the obvious highlight from this project.

As a whole album, Two Sunsets moves a bit too slowly to really shine, but The Pastels and Tenniscoat’s union produces a few gems. And if nothing else, teases the world with the promise of more Pastels and makes me want to listen to Tenniscoats more.