With their 2010 debut, Meet Me At The Muster Station, Kingston, Ontario’s PS I Love You established themselves as the kind of band that you knew wasn’t in the game to make great records; the album felt like a promotional tool for what I’m sure must be a killer live show. Muster Station was a brief blast of yelpy vocals, loud guitars, and pounding drums that was fun, but ultimately insubstantial on the songwriting front. It sounded like the kind of blast-racket that a studio recording can’t help but sell short; energetic, for sure, but maybe a little bit undercooked. Their new full-length Death Dreams, however, does everything a second album should: it enhances what worked before and fixes everything that didn’t.
The album begins on a mildly disorienting note: a slow, delicate two and a half minute long instrumental. You keep waiting for things to take off in their usual rocket-like manner, but it doesn’t happen. Instead, things just stay real calm and pretty for a second. It’s a strange opener, but one with a purpose; it lets you know that Death Dreams is going to be a fairly different beast from Meet Me At Muster Station. But lest this brief moment of spatial indulgence cause you to worry that PS I Love You have lost interest in making you sweat, never fear, my friend; immediately following the final notes of the opener, drums pop, a guitar cuts, and you are reminded of who you’re listening to. A different beast, but still, a beast nonetheless.
What’s immediately noticeable is just how those guitars and drums sound. The production on Death Dreams is significantly more polished than its predecessor. Polished in a good way, though; the band sounds fuller here and more powerful than they have on record in the past. Some songs even have an arena-rock-like bigness to them, which brings us to the other big development Death Dreams brings: the songwriting here is vastly improved from the debut and more adventurous as well. Lead single “Sentimental Dishes” is the best version yet of those explosive, yelp-and-riff driven anthems PS I Love You has been writing since their first seven-inch (“Facelove”, a 2009 split single with Diamond Rings’ irresistibly adorable “All Yr Songs”). “Red Quarter” and especially rousing album-closer “First Contact” are hugely successful attempts at crafting something with a more widescreen, epic sing-along scope than we’ve heard from this band previously, wildly careening past the five-minute mark – which, for a band who didn’t even have any songs that hit four minutes on its first album, is not only unexpected but extremely impressive. There’s a lot of “didn’t know they had it in ‘em” moments.
All throughout Death Dreams, you can hear a band reaching for something more, and more often than not, it works. And that is exciting stuff.
© Justin Santelli, Music Vice
Internet link: PS I Love You
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