Throughout the album exists the push and pull of disharmonious introductory sounds (groans mostly from edgy synthesizers) carried away by the comforting, emotional waves of tested, beloved rhythms that have carried listeners to and from pop music’s Elysium for decades. Known and known—this is Remain.
Sprinkled into the mix are traces of Throbbing Gristle’s menacing electronics. Dumped, are gallons of The Cure’s melancholic rain-guitar. Praised, are The Cocteau Twins.
That said, Remain sounds like a whelping ode to the past.
Consisting of vocalist Kennedy Ashlyn and guitarist Cash Askew, Them Are Us Too are but forty-two years combined in age. This is youthful record number one, and that can be heard in the inspired polarity that is the moody and tenebrous sound cradled by a reverence for nostalgia and desire for structural security.
Remain’s first song, “Eudaemonia,” in addition to resurrecting the term from ashy classrooms, introduces listeners to the layered bloom of synthesizers and guitar as cool and strange as a mythical narcissus. But the deathly coal-black steeds of a yawning rhythm are charging; Hades opens its maw, and “Eudaemonia” is swallowed by ennui.
To hear this combination of disintegrative sound chewed through and swallowed up by the past suggests that Them Are Us Too’s music is largely funneling through the filter of their influences. Sure, why not? Whose music isn’t? Yet, despite the hearkening back to decades past, there’s no real distinctive voice, here and now, rising from Remain; each track points to something else; drops vapidly from the rainy tower of Ashlyn’s voice, beautiful as it is.
Take “Us Now,” for example. Minus those underlying bars of creepy synth, this song closes any John Hughes movie. Which isn’t to say that it’s a bad song; only, what sordid business has youth in the graveyard?
Remain‘s density of layer and sleek production is akin to what’s heard on The National’s Trouble Will Find Me (2013). The album sounds great, deep and full. It’s just hard to determine why; nothing’s really happening, though nevertheless it’s breezily satisfying.
What strikes hardest on Remain, is, Ashlyn’s voice; rich and dense as Katrina Ford’s (Celebration), but able to climb emotional heights to sing notes on a peak with startling ease; it portends better than what these songs offer.
And though it might be strange and perhaps fruitless to write of what something is not, it’s all only to say that, despite what falls softly into the net of safety here, the talented partnership that is Them Are Us Too, is, manifest; the realization of this begs more from the artists than what has been offered, as the sound of Remain suggests that something grand may be growing in that murky, uncomfortable transition into adulthood.