There should be a word for the accumulated echo-y miasma that builds up when a band uses a boatload of reverb. Is there already a word? In any event, that hazy white-noise byproduct murmur so beloved of Phil Spector and every shoegaze band ever is one of the defining characteristics of the debut LP by Chicago-area quartet Light Pollution. But its abundant use of sound smudge here isn’t camouflage for plodding playing or a lack of songcraft, as is so often the case. In fact, one of the multitudes of pleasures this release offers is the layer upon novel layer of melody and hook and texture swaddled in that whatever you call it.
Apparitions leads off with “Good Feelings,” as shameless a stab at an old-style million-seller guitar-pop hot hit single as you’re likely to hear from anyone these days, and it deserves to be one. Singer/guitarist James Cicero has a fine line in Midwestern sincerity and winsome melody as his choirboy vocal lifts off on the bittersweet chorus about those title emotions. But underneath the billowing guitar cumulus lies a subfloor of cycling synth arpeggio and a nagging, nearly tuneless whistle, keeping the track canny rather than overly broad. As the album progresses, Light Pollution continues to dish out all manner of hooks, many of them blatantly grand and familiar—the retro pop beats underpinning “Oh, Ivory!” and “Drunk Kids,” the Animal Collective-esque stacked harmonies throughout—but just as many stashed beneath the topcoat, ready to be discovered on the third or fourth listen, such as the jazzy guitar runs on “Fever Dreams” or the organ percolating through “Witchcraft.”
Third, fourth, and further listenings are entirely possible, and cuts such as “Good Feelings,” the drone-y ballad “Deyci, Right On,” or the Arcade Fire-style epic “Bad Vibes” don’t need tricky little furbelows to make their case. When it comes to shamelessly pretty indie pop, circa 2010, Apparitions is now the bar to top.