The appeal of Now, Now has always been the alchemical reaction between KC Dalager and Brad Hale. Since the beginning, when they were shooting ideas back and forth as teenagers in Hale’s parent’s basement and uploading them to MySpace, the fruits of their creative partnership have been self-evident. And though there are some big sonic departures on Saved — their third album and first in six years — it stays true to the spirit of the group. There are infectious synths and crystallized pop sensibilities here the likes of which the duo has never attempted, but they’re grounded in each band member’s strengths.
Dalager has always written in wordy yet precise screeds that feel both overstuffed and make you long for more detail; Hale’s drumming and production is muscular and larger-than-life, a canvas that allows room for each song’s full narrative weight. Though they started out making muddy, insular rock music, with each album they’ve grown more confident in themselves and their sound has grown clearer. With Saved, they’ve reached a new level, filled with neon hues and booming beats and delectable choruses. Dalager’s voice occupies the frame more than ever; her delivery, once muffled and swallowed by anxiety, has opened up wonderfully. After six years away, the band has come sounding refreshed and better than ever.
Down to its title, the album is framed as a search for salvation. Not so much in an ecclesiastical sense — though religious imagery appears in the form of angels and ghosts and holy water — but in the belief that somewhere out there lies a solution to all of life’s problems. Saved depicts that as a desperate search. Often, Dalager lets this solution take the shape of a person, a love that will right everything wrong in the world. But just as often it feels as though she’s singing less about a person and more about some far-off, unattainable realization. “Don’t you know I’m desperate for you?” she sings on “Window.” “Every night I’m at your window, wondering when you’re gonna let me in.” And on “Drive”: “I’ll just keep driving until I find myself on your horizon.”
It’s a struggle for acceptance that manifests in every song on the album. “If I’m so perfect, baby, how come you don’t want me?” she asks achingly on “Powder,” its final track. The fight that extends to the album’s artwork, where it looks like Dalager’s either being baptized, having finally found relief, or getting suffocated by a plastic bag, succumbing to the pressure. It all depends on your perspective.
Saved is out 5/18 via Trans Records.