Toronto duo Beliefs are very up front about their retro influences. Their bio, for instance, notes that members Josh Korody and Jesse Crowe met at a mutual friend’s birthday bash, and hit it off after they “couldn’t stop talking about the music of the 90’s.” It should be added that the figure toasted at the party was Patrick McCormack, the onetime bassist of Beliefs, so presumably he had a taste for the time period too. In particular, their press materials shout out My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth, and their self-titled LP from 2013 certainly channeled elements of UK shoegaze and the distortion-blitzed sounds of the daydream nation.
Now, the band have unleashed a second full-length, Leaper. It doesn’t exactly bound away from the approach of that first effort, but the 10-song collection does refine those elements into something more sublime.
“Tidal Wave” floods the speakers with a crash of mid-tempo drums and seemingly water-damaged guitar chords, the wobble of whammy bar-driven melodies managing to ebb and flow throughout the pepped-up piece. Smoothing out the seasick string work are Korody and Crowe’s mellow, blissed-out whispers.
“1992” is delivered with both a nod and a wink, a song fully self-aware of its decades-old appeal. That said, it’s one of the most gorgeous moments on the LP, and one that comes filled with sigh-worthy rock sounds. Beliefs even throw us for a loop by dialing back the references a few years ahead of 1992 when Crowe, apparently saluting Scottish noise-pop icons the Jesus and Mary Chain, delivers the line: “you shouldn’t taste just like honey.”
Belief’s self-titled debut’s less fulfilling moments were its most aggressive (“Stronger”), but the act seem to have intentionally taken a bit of the edge off this time around. That’s not to say that Leaper doesn’t feature its fair share of noise. The title track is preserved in washes of reverb and maudlin peals of white noise. Playing into the band’s Sonic Youth worship, it’s bleeding feedback, deep-locking bass groove and Steve Shelley-style maraca beat may well ride an expressway to yr skull.
“Leaper” likewise presents two sides to Beliefs, with a back-and-forth vocal back section between Crowe and Korody balancing sun against rain, the future against the past, and so forth.
While there’s a bit of a gray-days gloom hanging over that track, follow-up number “Ghosts” is the most inviting offering of Leaper, a textural tapestry of jangled hooks, mauve-hued harmonies and other assorted vintage tones that would slide it perfectly on a mixtape in between Lush and Pale Saints.
the back-half of the LP shows a bit of wear and tear. There’s nothing especially wrong with tracks like the fritzed-out “Morning Light” or the fuzz-fried “Leave With You,” it’s just that after six or seven similarly-minded songs, Beliefs’ Leaper begins to feel a bit well-worn.
Closing cut “Swooner” is just what it’s title implies, though, and a great, romantic finale. Though it also offers plenty of softly entwined vocal arrangements and intentionally misshapen melodies, a hop-and-skip snare beat gives the song a different kind of push than the rest of Leaper.
Crowe and Korody repeatedly harmonize “Follow You” on the fade out, which leaves a lasting impression. It wouldn’t be unwise to leap over to the turntable and keep the song going a little bit longer.
review by Gregory Adams