On their sophomore LP, Candi and The Strangers jives out powdery synth-pop blended with muted disco and causes one to beg, “More Moog.” 10th of Always purveys movement through space, and its done remarkably well through fleshly synthetic melodies and vibrantly blurred rhythms. Because of all the dripping fuzz and boomeranging reverb on 10th of Always it’s hard to know whether Samantha Constant is saying ‘glide’ or ‘dive.’ But somehow it doesn’t matter. Part of the fun of the album is the ambience, and part of the ambience is traveling on a space ship or Milky Way vessel, as the Strangers beckon, “welcome to my dream, relax and float downstream.” The album is true mood music — much like Al Green or Radiohead — it changes the tone of a room. After succumbing to it, the listener buys into a new world of possibility. At times the album is uncannily reflective of shoegaze greats while simultaneously referencing pop culture icons like Nico and Candy Darling. These retro-familiar elements paired with a coded musical and vocal rhetoric craft an album that is otherworldly but altogether mellow mosh crowd ready.
“You Are A Star” starts 10th of Always off a bit ABBA with synthetic warbling behind Samantha Constant’s sugary strained soprano neatly packaging, “you are a star hanging in the sky for you.” The collected drums and the lingering vibrations add a welcomed edge to the song and a more representative taste of the rest of the album. As 10th of Always plays, it is as outer limits as it is believable — one begins to picture this band to be floating in space like stars jamming on their Moogs and guitars while handless-smoking cigarettes and reflecting magenta and all the empty promises of Tempur-Pedic commercials fulfilled. REM is the constant here. It is in their brave navigation of sound, that Candi and the Strangers pulls off the space of Major Tom and the futuristic emotionalism of Air.
“Children of the Tone” roves through an expansive space forest as Greg Rose’s drums back up on themselves. There’s a perfectly placed exaggerated pause at what could be the end of the song. As the music blasts forth again, the listener has a running start to propel forward into the sonic daydream induced by the particulate tinsel floating from Constant’s coy vocals. “Glide” skims a moon rock across a milk lake. Tones drop delicately along a heaving, breathing guitar and the band has never sounded more like Air than now. It is here, in this pooling driftwood of a song, that all the wrongs from the opening track are righted.
“Velvet” jangles with the magic of The Jesus and Mary Chain. When Constant is speaking in vocalist gibberish — ooh’s and dududu’s — it is the Strangers’ code fully realized. She places such emotional emphasis on wordless sounds that they are readily understood. In fact, because the album is a world of fuzz, many of the lyrics are indecipherable. However with Constant’s oozey vocalization, it is not necessary to understand just what she is saying, because her blatant non-emphasis on words blankets anything that can’t be made out with ever-expanding color. The title track seethes with the fuzz of My Bloody Valentine and Constant is a blinking Shirley Manson, grungy and alluring.
The quintet fizzles with detached glam, and minus a singular kitschy opening moment, the album plays like a dream. 10th of Always draws from inspired pop moments from the past, but still, Candi and The Strangers manages to be very of the now, especially in light of many best-of lists for 2010 on which a certain band (even cited by The Strangers as a favorite) finds itself quite at home for their emotive and aghast pop and unabashed reliance on the ethereal vocals of a leading lady. 10th of Always sits demurely on a star while simultaneously pouting to the ends of the Earth begging the listener to come up into the wonder. It is no wonder that songwriter John Constant co-composed for and Candi and The Strangers contributed to the award-winning score for the feature documentary about Richard Garriott’s journey to space.
Mp3 from 10th of Always: