In a time of hyper accelerated technology, an increasingly borderless consumption of art that negates subculture and in the context of an EDM dominated pop music scene, it is no surprise that there are some who instead look to the past for inspiration.
Cat’s Eyes- aka Rachel Zeffira and Faris Badwan- are a band who seem to happily wear their bygone proclivities on their leather sleeves and in doing so, have gained a quietly devoted following. Treasure House marks the third record- though technically only their second full length- from the duo following their effortlessly divine soundtrack last year to arthouse S&M drama The Duke of Burgundy and it’s time to see if the spark remains.
First single "Chameleon Queen" is a fitting taster for the record, an organ laden ballad with a haunting operatic soprano (courtesy of Zeffira) whose sumptuous beauty belies its core message - a brutal, repeated rebuffing of an ex lover, "I don't care if you want me back...I don't care about you anymore". Elsewhere "Drag" acts as a homage to the ghost of the bad boy Phil Spector's girlbands were so fixated on ("The things we do when we're together / If they ever knew, they would keep us apart") with an undertone of abuse; No doubt employed as a narrative tool but no less troubling. Though at first glance, Treasure House appears a lighter, more poppier effort than their self titled debut, scratching the surface reveals a darkness paired with a romanticism and lushness that render it all the more sinister.
The themes of unrequited love or decaying relationships that peppered their debut continue here without the same kind of bold, cinematic backdrop and delivered with a straighter, more Pop-led approach. If Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra had taken a much darker turn, this is what it would sound like. "Everything Moves Towards The Sun" is tremendously sad in its longing ("I wish you always could have been here") and closer "Teardrops" is emotionally crushing and an apt end to a collection of songs so plagued by sadness and wistful gazes. Scott Walker-esque strings swoop in abundance throughout the album, proving genuinely stirring and adding warmth amidst a vast array of instrumentation- Brass, harps, organs, flutes- that is key to the charm of Treasure House.
Given their almost lofty appearance and Badwan's flirtations with genre-hopping, it would almost be understandable for an uninitiated listener to pre-suppose that style may take precedent over substance with Cat's Eyes but that would be foolish; Though they may seem to be wilfully living in the shadow of a past era, this is no mere tribute act and is a project imbued with real heart and passion. At first listen, this record may seem detached but its shell cracks easily with time and what's beneath proves the title to be a fitting one. A wonderful, accomplished return.