It Looks Sad. – ‘Sky Lake’

By Renette van der Merwe

It Looks Sad. are finally back and ready to put their anticipated debut LP out into the world, but with three years passing since their last release, is ‘Sky Lake’ worth the wait?

From the ethereal opener of ‘Shave’, it’s clear the duo has moved away from the beachy, emo alt-rock of their 2015 7-inch, ‘Kaiju’, which featured both ‘Creature’ and ‘Nagoya’ and the brilliant – almost desperate – vocals from Jimmy Turner. The new material is pretty far removed from the indie-surf melodies of their self-titled, debut EP, which might leave fans feeling like ‘Sky Lake’ was recorded by a completely different band when comparing the two.

But, there are similarities to be found in the same shoreline, DIY quality of songs like ‘Bike’, ‘Faded’ and ‘Palms’ and the indifference in which Turner works his way through lyrics like “do you want to go for a ride?”. Then there’s also the familiarity in the guitar work; it comes few and far between, but man, when it does, you know you’re listening to the same It Looks Sad. that you first fell in love with.

Interludes like ‘Light’ and ‘Fantasy’ have an almost sci-fi quality that contribute to the overall otherworldly palette of their debut and further immerse you in the dream-like soundscape Turner and drummer, Alex Ruiz, create. Turner says that the record, named after the Florida neighbourhood he grew up in, is literally “a fantasy story of my dreams and things I’ve seen or hear in the woods while I walk.”

The presence of synths, auto-tuned vocals and a variety of effects throughout the record really does create a fantastical atmosphere that could soundtrack the most vivid of dreams, but does it take away from the overall quality? The answer is no. Instead it creates a Rubik’s Cube of sound, where each turn, however close you think you are to figuring it out, only reveals more possibility.

The one drawback of this album is a somewhat anticlimactic ending. ‘Stranger’, although touching, falls flat compared to its moving predecessor, ‘Visor’ and the emotional punch as Turner sings “I’ll be your sacrifice tonight”.

Wonderfully textured, ‘Sky Lake’ is a hot air balloon ride. Floaty, magical and evocative.

RENETTE VAN DER MERWE

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