Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit


Boardwalk – Boardwalk
15 October 2013, 12:30 Written by Phil Gwyn

In a post-Beach-House world where “hazy” has become the adjective of choice to impart relevance upon a band, it’s seems far more important to be breezy than to be original, and if those are the contemporary criteria for success, then Boardwalk undoubtedly succeed. Yet, entwined in vocalist Amber Quintero’s foggy melodies is a serene sadness as Boardwalk chart the steady and inevitable demise of a relationship.

The year-old L.A. based duo completed by multi-instrumentalist Mike Edge are far more than a slightly more pessimistic Beach House, however, a fact that they display over these ten tracks as they veer between haunting melancholy that hangs in the air like ethereal Warpaint songs, and vintage 60s pop that could be Tennis at a new low of self esteem. They’ve perfected the art of reducing the intensely emotional until it becomes nonchalant; witness the disparity between the lazy beauty of ‘It’s Over’ and its self evidently depressing subject matter.

There’s something appealing about how understated this brutally personal album is, and yet it’s this insouciant attitude that almost feels like it’s underselling the sharp honesty that’s concealed within these ten tracks. In the hands of a listener as aloof as Quintero’s melodies, the whole album would whir by in a blur of fuzzy guitar tones – and yet, if you choose to submerge yourself beneath its melancholic hold, you’ll find a rich and affecting world.

Take the obscured emotional crisis of ‘Oh Well’, for example. Behind a wall of foggy guitars and synths, Quintero unravels the numbness that follows a breakup with disconcerting precision as she sighs in blunt resignation, aware of the futility of caring when it’s definitely too late. It’s a laissez-faire attitude that can hardly come as a surprise as ‘I’m Not Myself;, the first track that the duo wrote and album opener here, wearily rhetoricises “…so why should I try?” It’s a statement of non-intent that finds itself to be the central theme of the album – as Quintero declares that “there’s some things you can’t change” on penultimate track ‘Some Things,’ suggesting the inevitability of this particular relationship’s downfall.

For all this slightly apathetic emotionality, however, there are moments of defiance; ‘As A Man’ deconstructs the stereotypically stubborn male mentality with unnerving accuracy, and ‘What’s Love’ interrogates Quintero’s unfortunate counterpart’s indifference. Guitars still ebb and flow, framed by an out-of-focus wave of synth, but Quintero’s lyrics are barbed and incisive, though they’re still delivered with an almost celestial composure.

That said, for all Boardwalk’s quirky glances to the past, there’s a gentle unconventionality that makes some sense of their pairing with Stones Throw Records, the left-field hip-hop label responsible for Madlib and J Dilla amongst many others. Innovative they may not be, but there’s a subtle single-mindedness to Boardwalk’s pairing of obscurity and beauty. ‘I’m To Blame’, the album’s final track, sums this up perfectly; it’s a painfully sublime song, but in the most understated way. It may flow with a ghostly aura that would pierce the heart of even the coldest, but it’s operating in the margins, creeping into your psyche unawares, not forcing itself upon you, but letting you immerse yourself in its pained self-awareness. “It doesn’t matter how we try, we can’t get it right,” concludes Quintero, “…and I think I’m to blame,” in a voice that makes resignation sound more appealing than it ever has done before.

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