True Hallucinations (2013) ★ ★ ★ 1/2
When you think of hallucinations, your mind often conjures images of delusionary psychiatric wards or drug-infused nightmares but there is nothing menacing or frantic about this album. As far as an indie pop record goes, ‘True Hallucinations’ draws inspiration from varied genres to truly encapsulate a dreamy, sentimental sound.
Based in Brooklyn, Ex Cops formed in 2011 of musicians Brian Harding and Amalie Bruun. From home-written songs to recorded harmonies, they are now working as a five-piece touring rock band.
This is an album of well-recorded material ranging from ferocious guitar solos to sweet male-female vocal harmonies infused with a youthful spirit that harnesses both an optimism and lingering sense of resentment. Their sound is fresh but emotionally accessible, a quality ready welcome on a debut.
It kicks off with a distinct lo-fi sound (we’re on that side of New York), alluring bass and pounding drums. On a strong note, ‘S&HSXX’ then grows back into soothing vocals for ‘Ken’ which characterise the luscious ambience of the songs to come.
The songs are dreamy but energised, riding a steady groove with enough jangling guitar to feel like you truly have plunged into a (safe and sympathetic) hallucination. At first listen, it has The Raveonettes written all over it but can also relay to early The Smiths records (‘You’ve got no future’), Belle & Sebastian (boy-meets-girl musical bliss) or The Cure (addictive riffs).
‘James’ and ‘Spring Break (Happy Birthday)’ feature playful lyrics and a sunny, upbeat sound. Some of the vocals are lost among the music but it’s a well-structured, compelling listen that is more about the overall sound than lyrical elements. It could be the lost soundtrack to 2004’s Garden State.
Ex Cops don’t stay there, though, ‘The Millionaire’ has a strong synth intro channelling eighties rock, with quirky undertones, surging drums and soft-spoken vocals, measured but melodically memorable.
Whereas ‘Billy Pressly’ and ‘Nico Beast’ navigate through more subdued sounds (a lethargic Velvet Underground?) with heavy bass and smoother song structure – in contrast to the previous pop/rock muted-verse-to-surging-chorus setup.
Pleasant? Yes. Predictable? No. After a while the songs begin to sound similar. Although it doesn’t quite delve into the urban anxieties of an existential Brooklynite, True Hallucinations is truly delightful.