Since we started GSC I find myself continually baffled at how deep New Jersey’s current pool of musical talent is. I had an inkling when we got started but man every day I feel like I wake up and hear about a rapper, producer, or band that grew up an hour from my hometown that are making gorgeous tunes I can’t believe I hadn’t heard already. Part of it is knowing where to look, so when I heard that Nic Palermo of Have a Good Season fame was playing bass in a band named Beauty putting out a record this year I knew I needed to get it spinning ASAP. HAGS’ debut from earlier this year, Shapes I’ve Never Seen, is an album I keep finding myself coming back to. The record both feels like a throwback to the 90s high points of bands like R.E.M. and the Flaming Lips while feeling completely of this modern moment, in that while their inspiration was clear they sounded like nobody else recording today. Similarly, while Beauty’s reference points and resulting music are a good deal different than HAGS, their self-titled debut project has left me feeling warm and fuzzy in all the same ways.
One aspect of Beauty’s debut that felt particularly modern is that the band doesn’t think of it as either an LP or an EP, rather it’s a project. At six songs it is a tad shorter than most LP’s and a tad longer than most EPs, though to be fair at its seventeen-minute runtime its longer than just about every Joyce Manor album. Though in the end what difference does it make what you call the record, if it feels cohesive and leaves you feeling satisfied then who gives a hoot how you label it? Beauty, like their brothers in HAGS, sound influenced by the mid 90’s indie rock boom, though more so the alt-country scene spearheaded by Uncle Tulepo and eventually Wilco. The whole tape has a nice gingerly twang to it that feels fresh in a modern context while still harkening back to those bands of yesteryear. The record makes for a smooth listen, the tracks run right into one another and all inhibit the same musical universe without ever getting repetitive. Beauty fits in a perfect sonic middle ground with breezy vocals and bright melodies while still taking the time to rip a juicy guitar solo here and there, you could call it either soft with a hard edge or hard with a soft edge depending on the song. Each track on the tape is catchier than the next, the Beauty boys definitely have an ear for a good hook. I found myself scrolling Instagram humming the chorus to “What Have You Been Up To” while catching up on what people I haven’t talked to since high school were up to. “Time” is similarly a song that has really nuzzled itself into my cranium, between the handclaps and gorgeous gang vocals it feels like a track that should have been playing in the background of an episode of One Tree Hill or something, just gorgeous, pristine, and fun. While Beauty is a DIY band to their core there is nothing rough about these tracks, they sound beautiful and beautifully recorded, though I can only imagine how they’ll light up a basement, bar, beach, or a backyard when/if this whole COVID ordeal ever ends.
While Beauty are clearly indebted to their alt country forefathers, this record sounds sooo fresh in 2020 partially because I can’t think of another band even trying to make music anything like this right now. These sound like the kind of tunes that would have kept 95.5 WPLJ in business (RIP), they’re all ripping fun tracks that have a ton of heart and just enough edge. Every track is catchier than the one that came before it without ever getting tired. The band knows what they do well and do it to a T, these are melodic, catchy, satisfying tracks that just about anyone would enjoy. Your mom and dad will like em, your buddies will be shazaming them after you play them at the next BBQ, and they’ll fit in like a charm on any and all driving playlists you could be putting together. I love nothing more than having a band catch me by surprise with a sound that is all too familiar, though it’s no surprise an act this good came from the Garden State.