I was intrigued when I heard “Skeleton Key” by Berkeley Social Scene. I loved the track but it just didn’t leave me much to say. That being said, my gut said that this band was a band I had to dig into a little bit more so let’s spend some time with their full album ‘Secret Places Hidden Spaces’ that came out earlier this year!
That track, “Skeleton Key”, kicks off this album with such a perfect indie-pop vibe. It instantly brought a smile to my face and a toe-tapping beat to my heart. I still stand by what I said to them when I first heard this track. Although great and perfectly recorded, it just doesn’t leave me much to write about but that changed as soon as “No Memory” took over my speakers. Still a perfect indie-pop vibe, this track brings an interesting key (or maybe that’s a guitar) part at the beginning that instantly captivated me. It’s a bit whimsical while the beat continues to propel this track forward.
“Two Hits” brings a little edge with the chorus that made this track irresistible. Although still very indie-pop, there’s something a bit harder about this track that I absolutely love. You still have this almost whimsical keyboard part that pops in and out throughout this track which makes it the perfect follow-up to “No Memory”. Although I’m still trying to peg the sound of Berkeley Social Scene down, I’m catching onto the fact that they do infectious beats oh so well yet don’t make it obvious. That infectiousness continues into “Secret Handshake” but the vocals shift to a hurried pace as the vocalist almost speaks the words over the classic indie-pop instrumentation before settling down and into the chorus of this track. This track was an instant favorite of mine because of this give and take in the speed of the vocals. This is really just one of those tracks that you have to hear for yourself and I highly suggest you do just that.
The fifth track on this album, “Right Town, Wrong Address”, definitely gave “Secret Handshake” a run for its money as far as being my favorite track on this album. There’s a super powerful guitar solo right around the two-minute mark that really brought light to the instrumentation of this band and the talent behind all of the players. Even though this wailing solo brings a new side of this band to the forefront, the overall vibe of this track just screams Berkeley Social Scene.
“Please Move” has the vocals taking a darker tone than on the previous tracks. It also brings an organ sound to the spotlight making this track feel almost psychedelic in a way. Although this psychedelic influence makes the song feel a little dated, I feel like it’s an aspect I faintly heard in the previous tracks so it was nice to have a song where it was brought to the front. The laid-back chorus of this track is so well done and powerful. “You’ll Know It When You See It” continues on with this darker tone in the vocals but something about the instrumentation keeps this track feeling light. There were multiple moments throughout this track where the volume and power build and I would have put money on the fact that the band was about to explode into a powerful wave of sound but, instead, the band falls back. I love how Berkeley Social Scene kept me on my toes throughout this track.
I just realized that we are already on the eighth song of this eleven-song album and I have yet to mention the lyrics. Honestly, that’s because I was so lost in the instrumentation and trying to peg down influences and genres to relate this album too but I finally took my moment to dig into the lyrics during “Color Me”. What a great track to hone in on this aspect. The words are soft like the overall vibe of this band. Not overly emotional or harsh, it honestly adds to the idea that Berkeley Social Scene is one of those bands that are perfect for all occasions. Looking for something to completely get lost in? Berekely Social Scene. looking for something to have to play in the background while cleaning the house? Berkeley Social Scene. Most bands can’t walk this line but Berkeley Social Scene make it sound and feel so easy.
“Walk Steady” seems to bring in a few of the elements heard previously in this album and wrap them all up with a beautiful bow. There’s a psychedelic feeling that comes from the overall instrumentation of this track while the vocals have a hint of the darkness heard in “Please Move” while staying light and in the indie-pop world. This track is both anthemic and laid back which made it a super intriguing listen to just get lost in.
The piano part that kicks off “The Way It Isn’t” was not only surprising but also beautiful. I think I was surprised by it because, although you can hear keys throughout this album, they never come over as clean and precise as they do on the intro of this track. At five and a half minutes long, this is the longest track on the album but it definitely doesn’t feel like it. There are multiple “movements” throughout this track that make it fly by like the previous songs and before I knew it, the album was coming to a close with “Is This Real Life”. The slowest track on this album, this final track really brings this release to a perfect close. “Is this real life? It’s what we have left” repeats until the song eventually fades out and leaves you in silence.
I still don’t know that listening to this entire album as a whole has left me very much to talk about other than it’s just one of those solid albums. It’s the type of album that you could listen to a million times and still hear something new with every listen.
My Favorite Track(s): “Secret Handshake”
For Fans Of: Indie-Pop; Subtle Hints of Psychedelic Vibes
Daydream-ability: 5 out of 10
What My Cats Thought Of It: Both cats slept upstairs
How Badly I Want To See This Performed Live: 6 out of 10
My Overall Rating: 6.3 out of 10
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