Sophomore albums are the true tests of artists: Will they digress? Will they refine? Will they ascend? Will they fizzle?
The luminescent second album from Boston’s Gem Club is the year’s first strikingly beautiful recording. The duo-turned-trio creates what is commonly called chamber pop, scored by strings, a plaintive piano and ethereal vocals, and in the right mood any listener of modern music is in for a treat.
Be advised: The classical/electronic fusion moves . . .very . . .slowly. Its ambient dexterity only lends restraint and poignancy. No one can accuse Gem Club of getting anywhere in a rush, In Roses won’t be a massive commercial success, but its consistent structure and confidence yield enormously and demonstrate sustainable potential for the group.
In Roses leads with an instrumental introduction, gradually builds a choral quality that will remind the listener of Sigur Rós, and moves momentously into generous passages in the back half. With so many front-loaded albums, it’s a pleasure to experience a recording that finishes strongly. The second release from the album, Braid, is the most accomplished of many tracks.
To develop its solemn mix, the band turned to string arranger Minna Choi and moved into John Vanderslice’s analogue studio in SanFran. These were not easy choices and could have derailed the project. Anything but: The sweep of the songs is powerful, the recording itself grounded and simple. I suspect it will be a durable part of the playlist in the time ahead.