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Secret Cities - Walk Me Home

"Walk Me Home"

Release date: 24 June 2014
7.5/10
Secret Cities Walk Me Home
24 June 2014, 09:30 Written by Robby Ritacco
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“It’s always summer in my heart; but it’s always winter in your heart” - so sings MJ Parker on “It’s Always Summer,” a fluttery, light-handed composition laden with chirpy guitar snaps and the sort of ethereal, echo-weighted vocals that Secret Cities has made their namesake. Immediately following said tune is its counterpoint in the much more somber “It’s Always Winter,” highlighting a balancing act prevalent throughout Walk Me Home - where summer-pop abandons its oft-accompanied twee-albatross for a more heavy-hearted disposition.

Though it’s Secret Cities’ third album to date, Walk Me Home is the first for which the trio actually recorded together in a single location. While the band has its roots in Fargo, North Dakota, two of its three members have since displaced to Washington, D.C. and NYC, and so previous releases were compiled through the passing of files back and forth via email, piecemealing compositions together through the bit-by-bit additions of individual layers and snippets. But for Walk Me Home, Secret Cities reconvened within San Francisco’s Tiny Telephone studio alongside producer Jay Pellicci (The Dodos, Deerhoof, and plenty more).

On their delightful 2011 second album Strange Hearts, one could, in a sense, hear that lack of physical presence in the recording. The individual instrumentation and ethereal, hallowed vocal lines seemed as though they were extracted from entirely different universes only to be somehow bonded together as a few hundred megabytes of tranquil, meditative data. Conversely, Walk Me Home sees the band at its most lively. And where prior albums were fitted with a bewildering, fuzz-soaked safety blanket - now, the band has released their 60s-inspired pop affixation from beneath the covers, with Pellicci’s capable hands retaining the band’s knack for atmospherics, leaving Walk Me Home feeling altogether communal.

This is also thanks in no small part to its array of campfire songs - the sort suited to winding down on a summer evening with sun-soaked sing-alongs - but the album keeps a fine counterbalance to its own whimsy with its selection of wallowing swansongs, maintaining a steady give-and-take. This inherent discord plays seamlessly throughout the album as a whole, as warm, summery pop tunes shift seamlessly into wintry gloom time and time again.

“Thumbs,” for example, finds Walk Me Home at its heaviest (and is a personal favorite cut from the album). The track features ghastly harmonies, a terse piano line and some pervasive accompaniment by one ever-so-disconcerting cello. And yet what should follow “Thumbs” but Walk Me Home‘s most light-hearted, summery romp, “Playing with Fire” - featuring the prior song’s polar opposite in staccato rhythms, synchronized handclaps and even some rallying high-register horns standing in place of the foreboding, low-register strings.

Since their earliest recordings, Secret Cities has been gradually reducing their background noise, stripping away bits of fuzz and hum layer by layer to shine further light on their dreamy, 60s-inspired pop songwriting. The jump from 2010-debut Pink Graffiti to the following year’s Strange Hearts was a hefty one, but it pales in comparison to their most recent. Walk Me Home is brimming with confidence, standing decisively in the clear, open air and highlighting the intrinsic beauty of their otherworldly sound.​

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