Fargo, North Dakota trio Secret Cities used to go by the name White Foliage. The new moniker makes more sense with the multi-hued heartbreaking pop songs that appear on their official Secret Cities debut Pink Graffiti. We’re told the highly ambitious 10-song collection’s a meditation on “Brian Wilson and young people.” To quote:
Brian Wilson and his work as a prism through which we view youthful things. It’s about the feelings that start with him getting all mixed up in our feelings for other people and other music (and vice versa).
They mention it was “inspired by a college thesis, changing relationships, and a fateful meeting with the aging once-spokesperson for vibrant youth.” That “college thesis” could also be rewritten as “collage thesis”: The band’s twisting kaleidoscope of crystalline psychedelia, chirpy folk, dark baroque pop, and bare emotions comes lined with male/female vocal harmonies, guitars, percussion, piano, loops, field recordings, viola, violin, fuzzed-out whistling, ambient hiss, trumpets, etc. The results are non-linear and mysterious, but intimate and immediately likable. The Antlers in a blender? A chillier Grizzly Bear brought up on the Unites States Of America (’60s band, not present place)? Or, in a track like “Slacker,” you hear Sufjan Stevens in the pulsing, cascading choirs. The Wilson theme comes through clearly on standout “Boyfriends.” As does their knack for melancholic, uplifting hooks. (Note they do have smiles on their faces.)
Here’s “Pink Graffiti Pt. 1.” It gives you a sense of their slicing and dicing. That, and the ongoing percussion echoes Arcade Fire somehow. (There’s a “Pt. 2″ you should take in at some point as well.)
Pink Graffiti is out 6/8 via Western Vinyl. It gets better and better the more you listen to it.