As an audience, we are no stranger to the dreamy stylings of a band like Pllush. Yet their brand seems new all the same; a mix of Courtney Love and Mazzy Star in a tightly-knit bond of ethereal surrealism. Stranger to the Pain is a carefully crafted concoction of just the right amount of rock while still retaining coffee house credibility. We’re transported back to a simpler brand of music that doesn’t rely on kitchy gimmicks and overproduction. Pllush isn’t out to prove themselves; they’re out to make music.
Experimentation in variety seems only natural during this 12 track album. Whereas some bands seem to force themselves into different sounds to try and branch out, Pllush outright attacks hazy sonic landscapes as much as they attack the hard rock aspect of their sound. The effort shown in each attempt is clear. The track “3:45” is a perfect example of this tonal trial and error. Midway through the song, the tempo changes completely, flourishing into a rainforest of music designed to be easily accessible to anyone within earshot.
The heart and soul of this band is always exposed in full, the raw vocality of lead singer Karli Helm putting so-called “sob rock” in a new light. Lyricist Eva Treadway proves consistently that it’s no secret that being a stranger to the pain is a fallacy concocted for irony’s sake. Verses from songs like “Big Train” (Who’s gonna love me more when I’m crying in the middle of the night? / Maybe I’m feeling torn because nothing ever comes out right) or “Stuck to You” (I don’t ever wanna feel stuck to you / It’s not like I’ll ever get the chance to) prove that sadness is well-warranted, becoming ironically unironic in a way only organic sob rock can. Rounding out the group are the ever-present timekeepers Dylan Lockey and Sinclair Riley, who provide depth and structure through their respective drums and bass play.
The tightly-wound spinning top that is the Pllush sound whirs swiftly, ever in control of its destiny. Stranger to the Pain is an instant classic of its genre: cool as riding down the Pacific Coast Highway with the top down, yet still able to retain the heart and soul of an earnest open mic on a Tuesday afternoon.