(Stars & Letters)
Seven years after DFA released a compilation of songs from his previous two Shocking Pinks LPs, New Zealand-based singer/songwriter Nick Harte is putting it all out there on a triple album that clocks in at two hours and 40 minutes.
The DFA comp found Harte shifting from his dance-punk beginnings toward a bleary, depressing dream pop world full of violence, vulnerability and reverb. Its production showcased a resolutely DIY sensibility that – though polished – made the songs sound on the verge of falling apart.
Now, perhaps inspired by the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, Harte creates a crumbling atmosphere on Guilt Mirrors – full of aggressive electronic beats, squalling noise and washed-out vocals – that occasionally gives way to moments of pop serenity. Rather than the direct and sympathetic presence he projected on the DFA release, Harte is here an omnipotent conductor of dark, varied and largely instrumental music in which vocals heighten the mood rather than steer it. His strengths as a songwriter occasionally break through this morass, but the album is overwhelmingly concerned with anger and confusion.
Top track: Motel