BLESSED ISLES, THE: Straining Hard against the Strength of Night: CD

Straining Hard against the Strength of Night is the long-awaited first proper label release from Brooklyn shoegaze dream pop duo The Blessed Isles. You can definitely hear a lot of dark new wave influence here: Cocteau Twins, The Cure, and at times even a little Sisters Of Mercy, but freshened up to appeal to twenty-first century pop sensibilities through creative synth and vocal interplay. Beautiful arrangements cradle soft and thoughtful vocals, an aesthetic mirrored in the textural album artwork featuring lush purples and whites over dark photos of the Icelandic coast. As some shoegaze tends to do, the writing feels a little serious at times, but after working on a debut release for over three years I can only imagine the intention and contemplation that went into each detail of the production. When I was eighteen I would have totally bumped this while over-applying eyeliner in preparation of a long night of drinking wine coolers in the parking lot of the twenty-one and over indie night held at a local sushi restaurant, in other words: ambitious, nascent, pure cool.   –Candace Hansen (Saint Marie,