After Nights Without Sleep, the newest release by Seattle band Curtains for You, dropped yesterday, courtesy indie label Spark and Shine Records. If your record collection includes any Beach Boys, Beatles, vintage Harry Nilsson, and/or Posies–and if that jumpy mass occasionally occupying space on the surface of your sleeve is your heart–get thee to your local record store or online music provider, post-haste. Simply put, you won’t hear a better pure-pop record all year.
Vocalist/guitarist Matt Gervais and keyboardist/vocalist Peter Fedofsky (the band’s principal songwriters) share a love for classic songcraft, and best of all, the sensibilities to distill their influences into something far greater than the sum of their parts. Curtains been kicking around the local music firmament for about six years, but the last two years have seen them roaming a creative purple patch.
Their compositional styles–Gervais rooted in slightly more guitar-based rock, Fedofsky lending more ornate (and, obviously, piano-based) touches–compliment each other in stunning fashion. 2009’s awesome What a Lovely Surprise to See You Here provided eleven bittersweet, unabashedly melodic bursts of magic, from Kinks-style ragtime shuffles like ‘Small Change’ to Fab Four-infused rays of sunshine like the luminous “Licorice Skies.” The sonic template remains the same on After Nights Without Sleep, only it’s done even better this time out.
The new record superficially follows the pattern laid down by Curtains on What a Lovely Surprise–five songs by Gervais, five songs by Fedofsky, and one track by a third band member (bassist Nicholas Holman, this time out). It pretty much bolts from the starting gate with a hit: “Daisy,” the album’s opening track, soars on a wave of pulsing drums and dual harmonies; lyrics rife with metaphors uniting square-peg misfits in awkward passion (“Just two daisies trying to fit in/In this rose garden”).
And the jewels keep coming, from the rollicking Beatles gallop of “What Good Am I to You Now?” to the catchy country shuffle of Holman’s “Bronx Zoo Hobo” to the Queen-gone-power-pop “Open Your Eyes.” The closest thing to an Achilles’ heel amongst the proceedings–the record’s sometimes too-polite production–gets ably sidestepped by the intelligent lyrics, and by refreshing bursts of swagger like “Eggs Over Toast,” the best slice-of-life rocker Elvis Costello never recorded.
There’s an enthralling undercurrent of darkness to After Nights Without Sleep that lends a gravity that only surfaced sporadically on What a Lovely Surprise. Make no mistake: this is still a hook-laden pop album. But Gervais’ lovely falsetto pulls a palpable ache from the circus-music bridge of “In the Last of the Light,” and a sense of wistful melancholy colors the Pet Sounds lope of “Photographic Memory.”
After Nights Without Sleep’s centerpiece, “The Wasteland,” stands as the album’s masterstroke, a lushly orchestrated, exquisite mash-up of “Eleanor Rigby” with Nilsson-style twilight romanticism. And when the band bursts into sumptuous wordless harmonies at the end, Curtains for You accomplishes one of pop music’s most cherished hat tricks–namely, making deep-set sadness abidingly beautiful–and irresistibly catchy.