Ever have an album come along and sweep out your feet, wash you away, and completely captivate your attention? That’s exactly what Poolside‘s Pacific Standard Time has done to me. To say I’ve been obsessed with this album would be an understatement — I literally couldn’t stop listening for a solid two weeks. This album flows from one end to the other, a smoothly cohesive effort filled with beautiful ebbs and luscious flows.
Their self-assigned label of “daytime disco” is like a revelation once you listen. They come at the disco thing from every conceivable angle: vocals, instrumental tracks, more electronic, more organic, guitars, percussion… the works, all in addition to the typical synths, bass, and drum machines. The line has been blurred between electronic & instrument so much that it’s difficult to tell what’s sampled and what’s recorded. There are just so many different sounds — if disco is a whiffle ball, they’ve come in through every hole. But the common thread is this downtempo, silky, sexy attitude that embodies what it feels like to lounge around a pool during the day. The imagery that this album conjures is pure happiness, relaxation, and comfort. A very hedonistic sensation.
But this album doesn’t just lounge around; it’s got a river of funk that runs through (almost) every track. The basslines throughout this album are so sharp and so funky — they are dance floor fuel. They come at you in different ways as well. In the second track, “Next To You,” the bassline is from a bass guitar and sounds like a nod to “Regulate” by Warren G. It’s layered over with simple shaker percussion, piano, and a bouncing synth line to make a great way to (sort of) open the album. But then there’s “Take Me There,” with it’s squishy synthesizer bass lines, giant drums, and strong electric guitar presence. Both songs perfectly utilize a catchy vocal hook to add something to hang on to. In fact, the album is rife with these extremely catchy hooks, which makes getting these songs stuck in your head almost impossible to avoid.
You’re wondering what purpose those parentheses in the previous paragraph serve, right? Well, it’s because there are a few tracks on this album that help push the relaxation energy of the album as a complete work. The very first track, “Tulsa,” is this beautiful, ethereal looped guitar piece that somehow feels exactly like waking up from a great dream. It’s a similar story with the tenth track “Can’t Get You Off My Mind.” It’s this windy slide and acoustic guitar arrangement with the sound waves rushing in the background almost like white noise — a very somnolent song. Finally, “Between Dreams” sounds exactly like the title would lead you to believe. This is an ambient electronic track that also has a meditative quality. There isn’t anything funky or disco about these songs, but they’re all completely gorgeous and give this album a rare & unique dimension.
“Between Dreams” also serves a more literal purpose: it’s between two of the most powerful songs on the album. “Golden Hour” is the most explosive song. It’s tempo is cranked up, the bassline is extra saucy… its pure night club dance track. Then “Without You” has a sense of drama & suspense that is found no where else on the album. The guitar work is a hugely distorted wall of sound, and actually Pink Floyd-esque in a way. If there is an ‘epic’ song on the album, this is it. My favorite song on the album, however, brings all of the elements together in a weird way, with a twist of tropical island energy. It’s definitely kind of a corny song, especially the high-pitched vocal hook, but there’s just something about “Kiss You Forever” that makes me smile. The bassline is dirty, yet the vocals are very gentle. It’s got a rare verse/prose aspect to the vocals outside of a hook as well, which is a nice change of pace. But it’s interplay of the percussion, piano, and synths that comes together in this ecstatically sunny way — it basically makes me feel like I’m standing on a beach in the Caribbean Sea. “Golden Hour” might be the banger, but “Kiss You Forever” is the MVP.
How much more gushing do I need to do? Listen to this album! We don’t really offer up any cheap, arbitrary number rankings here at Soundfuse, I mean, how would this album stack up against an all-time, widely-accepted classic album? It probably wouldn’t at this point, so giving it a 10 would be basically meaningless. So let me just put it this way: this is a complete & masterful musical work and my favorite album thus far in 2012. And for a debut album, the maturity of both their sound and approach to album composition is absolutely remarkable. Pacific Standard Time is an expansive journey of what disco has become in 2012, a.k.a. much different than the disco of the 70s. If you love music, you’d be a fool not to put this in your collection.