album pick: Royal Baths – Better Luck Next Life

by Sky Madden

With a stinging vengeance comes Better Luck Next Life from the Kanine imprint (great releases this past year from Young Prisms, Surfer Blood and Dream Diary). On their sophomore effort the Royal Bath boys Jigmae Baer and Jeremy Cox evince more of their gloomy catharsis. Always dependable for not being blissed out, but rather strung out, blacked out and freaked out, the new cuts here delve further into the rabbit hole. On BLNL they do what it is they know best by taking refuge in the bonfire and finding safety in harms way. And in taking comfort with discomfort, the Baths come on strong, straight out the gates with opener and first single off the album “Darling Divine.” Wrapped in bent notes and vocal snarls, “Darling Divine” is Next Life’s prologue, a kiss off for what’s to come of the Royal Baths newest chapters on damaged love and depravity.

The Royal Baths mythology comes to life on Better Luck Next Life with the vocal play between the two, which is eerie as the they often mimic each others’ intonation and timbre. The constantly hard rolling rhythm section makes a cold bed for Baer and Cox’s prophetical vocals, sometimes softly spoken or dismissively rattled off with sinister confidence. On songs “Faster, Harder,” “Nightmare Voodoo” and “Map of Heaven” their kaleidoscope reflects dystopic scenes, casting images of high heels walking in the opposite direction, bedroom abuse and blackened intimacy, that complicate the idea of pleasure. The lyrical bravado and restless instrumentation on “Be Afraid of Me”  calls to mind the experience of involuntary twitching while falling asleep or just starting to regain consciousness. This is to say that for all the destabilization of guitar and vocal battles on BLNL  there are areas of meditation, moments of transportation. The angular pierce of Cox’s bizarre scale crawls are back too. He’ll solo in and out of verses, playing at speeds conjuring a freak vibrato that races against Baer’s howling, effecting the sound frequency of bow to violin. There is a sweaty, closed fist, “Fuck yes,” instance of this on side A track “Burned” where the two drown each other out in sound.

The recording is the band’s cleanest, warmest yet featuring a new a version of “Black Sheep.” Better Luck Next Life is a grinning nightmare for fans of shamble pop or anyone who’s survived a two-faced girlfriend. If Better Luck Next Life is on in a room near by and you’re sitting down you’ll stand up. If you’re in a coma, you will be shaken out of it.

“Do you think I don’t know what’s wrong? It is me.”

Royal Baths // “Darling Divine”

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