Weekend – Jinx

[xrr rating=4/5]

Guitarist Kevin Johnson recalls Weekend’s debut album “Sports”, released in 2010 as a decade in the offing ‘cathartic release of energy and songs’. Born in gritty post-punk and swathed in shoegaze, it probably should have accumulated greater fame, considering the recent success of similar acts like Diiv and Beach Fossils, the latter releasing their debut album the same year as Weekend. Regardless, Weekend’s sophomore release “Jinx” is a darker yet more melodic output. It originates in vocalist Shaun Durkan’s recovery from a family bereavement, which caused him to pass six months in therapy, and an intriguing move by Weekend to Brooklyn with its already glutted music scene.

The band’s employment of a wider range of melodies in “Sports” is epitomised by “Celebration FL” which sees their most noticeable break from harmonies suffocated in shoegaze. Now, distortion and effect pedals are merely used to soften the pristine finish of 80s synth and brisk guitar, which could otherwise run off into a sound not dissimilar to the cloying 90s techno-pop of songs like “Things Can Only Get Better”. “Rosaries”, also, oozes synth: shoegaze is usurped by subtle distortion: the creeping echo of vocals dissolving into the song’s melodies. That said, in general shoegaze still rules unbroken over the albums tracks, if not a mellower sort, which renders this glossy pair of singles outcasts in “Jinx”.

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When the effect pedals are used it is to veil and reveal. “Jinx”, its title prior to listening, casting the album in a gloom, emerged from the circumstances of bereavement and the songs have a clear sensitivity to revelation and concealment. Opener, “Mirror” uses synth in the tradition of Joy Division, creating despair filled, introspective sounds, vocals lost within them. The only sentence that surfaces above the shoegaze is ‘I feel sick, sick, sick, in my heart’:  if you needed clarification of the album’s mood… “Oubliette”, the song best lending itself to a single, also most succinctly captures the album’s despair. An “Oubliette”, literally translating “forgotten place”, is a dungeon but with its closeness to “oublier” (to forget) a paradox is created: the intention to forget is entrapment. Its tone is atmospheric; the sound borrows heavily from the lo-fi, neo-shoegaze of Diiv and Beach Fossils – maybe also the reason why it lends itself so well to single release. However, unlike Beach Fossils, whose melodies so often teeter on the edges of Major and Minor, “Oubliette” has only despair: the most apparent vocals are ‘Last place last place’ repeated, incessantly in monotone.

There is a reason that Weekend’s “influences” section on their Facebook page reads: “Love+Death”: where more do the themes of despair, revelation and concealment belong that “Jinx” touches? The album’s problem is identity: shoegaze and post-punk are saturated, and the album navigates through the array of it’s influences so freely that it plays like  a “Best of post-punk and shoegaze and neo-shoegaze and psychedelia” compilation album. The Horrors, My Bloody Valentine, Splashh, The Stone Roses (add to at your convenience). Yet “Jinx” doesn’t merely appropriate, it reworks, improves these sounds: what you can’t deny is that more often than not the sound that Weekend reap is better than it’s seed.

Robert Firth

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