Album Review: PS I Love You – Death Dreams

May 10, 2012
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PS I Love You - Death DreamsTitle: Death Dreams
Artist: PS I Love You
Label: Paper Bag Records
Released: 8 May 2012
In One Word: Refined

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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J. Francis

J. Francis is a freelance music critic that sprouted like an unsightly growth from the suburbs of the Greater Toronto Area and eventually ended up in Kingston, Ontario. He is a man of deliriously firm, contradictory convictions, with a life-long dream of dismantling high-art/low-art hierarchies. He loves pop music with a passion that many find unsettling and is often mistaken as being somehow ironic or insincere (nothing could be further from the truth). His favourite album is Meat Loaf's Bat Out Of Hell. He knows that you think that's ridiculous. Regardless, he hopes you have a good day.

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