Record Review: Candy Claws, “Hidden Lands”

Candy Claws, Hidden Lands

It took me a while to get into Hidden Lands — not because of the album’s atmospheric and meandering nature, but because I had read somewhere that the album would intrigue fans of the Tough Alliance. All ready for raucous electro-pop, I put on my headphones and hit play. While I won’t name names, the idea that the Brian Wilson-esque dreamscapes of Hidden Lands are comparable to the Tough Alliance’s typical bombast is a curious one. Much stronger parallels could be drawn to acts like Boards of Canada, Múm, Animal Collective, the Deer Tracks, even Magnet (Even Johansen), any of which would have better prepared me for Candy Claws’ sophomore effort.

Disappointed by the lack of crackling energy and urgency, I let Hidden Lands sit for a while. Having now found a way into the album’s dense musical landscapes, which admittedly can take a few attempts, I am surprised at myself for not immediately recognizing Hidden Lands for what it is, no matter that I went into the experience with very different expectations.

“In the Deep Time” is a very smart choice for an opening track — at almost seven minutes, this cinematic composition, something I could easily picture in a Sofia Coppola film, either lulls you in and prepares you for the rest of Hidden Lands or thoroughly demonstrates that you aren’t presently in the mood for an album like this (as was my first experience with the song). By the time “In the Deep Time” comes to a close, the Pet Sounds-inspired “Sunbeam Show” sparks to life, being granted a sense of immediacy in the wake of its predecessor. Having already become accustomed to the strata of breathy instrumentation and vocals with the opener, I found listening to the rest of the album a distinct pleasure, even when the tracks sometimes didn’t seem to lead much of anywhere.

Presently working as the strange soundtrack to Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice, Hidden Lands continues to impress me. This isn’t to suggest that Candy Claws’ album only works as background music to other tasks. I have spent a few afternoons now on the porch, smoking cigarettes and staring off, my thoughts and mood benefiting from Hidden Lands‘ optimistically ethereal nature. In that way, it is a record that will most likely be enjoyed alone (and, to be honest, it sounds better on headphones than on a stereo), but there’s quite a bit to be said for an album that works on such an intimate level. It’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you can find a way into Hidden Lands, it’s an interesting and often rewarding journey.

Candy Claws’ website
Candy Claws on MySpace
“Hidden Lands” on iTunes
“Hidden Lands” on Amazon.com

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