Disappear Here is the second album from Night School, an Oakland based dreampop duo. Known for their unique blend of dreamy vocals, bright reverby leads and heavy distorted rhythm guitars, Night School adds some changes from their previous work. As they evolve their traditional style you can hear experimentation with different sounds like alternative rock and shades of 80’s post punk and jangle pop.
“Spaces” is a perfect example of this and a fitting kickoff for the album. Clean guitar picking paired with a pounding kick drum drives the verse into the powerful chorus. The vocal melodies dip and soar over the loud fuzzy guitar with beautiful harmonies and an ethereal quality. The lines, “four and five spaces, for all your faces,” will definitely be stuck in your head after a few listens. Most tracks follow this style making “Spaces” a good peer into their style and the rest of the songs to come.
There are times when the usual formula doesn’t work and that same electricity feels lost. The song “Mixed Signals” is an example where the fuzzy guitar and usual harmonized vocals feel uninspired. After a few songs in the same vein, the vocals and distorted guitars seem to wash each other out with no new spin or different element added. There are also times when there’s little variation added to vocal melodies and it can sound like something we’ve heard on previous tracks. This is unfortunately the fate of a handful of songs on the album. A little more experimenting and risk taking vocally could have pushed some of the lower tier tracks up easily.
When the formula does work though you can feel it instantly, but some of the best songs come from when they move out of their comfort zone surprisingly. The song ”Sweetened” is a hidden gem. Opening with a lone ominous chord from an organ, this track is different stylistically from the rest. The slow jangling guitar chords, paired with plodding drums are reminiscent of 80’s British post punk. The vocal melody flows perfectly with the instrumentation as the despondent lyrics repeatedly state, “I turn around with my head down.” A distant lead riff soaked in reverb slips in during the back half of the track and completes the song perfectly. This song is a breath of fresh air from their usual style and if Night School continued songwriting in this direction they could have something really special on their hands.
The album ends on another high note with the song, “Free.” This track holds some beautifully cheery dual guitar leads full of 80’s nostalgia. The bittersweet and hopeful tone are Morrissey-esque from vocal melody down to instrumentation. “Free” is a great closing track reminding you of their songwriting chops and a perfect send off for the album.
Overall, Disappear Here’s strengths outweigh its weaknesses. Night School has proven they can write unique catchy songs and have an identifiable sound. They are close to perfecting that sound and if they continue to experiment with different genres they could come out with some really exciting albums in the future.