ARTIST: Snowball II
RELEASE: Flashes Of Quincy
RELEASE DATE: 10th February 2017
RECORD COMPANY: Doughnut Records
Songs about breaking your ankle on halfpipes, drinking chai tea and heartbreak; must be the nineties!? Or is it ‘Flashes of Quincy’ by Long Beach based power pop band Snowball II? An album that combines the more rock-influenced shoegaze sounds of bands like Ride and the heavy strum and meddling of a genre one can only identify as a specific type of garage power pop. Throw into these musical nods to a by-gone era the lyrical recipes that shot many alternative bands to the top of charts around the world; such as skating, girls and being generally awkward about things. It’s a smart and satisfying album because it injects an originality into a time period and sound (power pop) that make it sound as fresh as ever; you can see the influence, but it’s mostly covered by originality and creatively diverse songs, ideas and sounds.
‘Flashes of Quincy’ begins with the album highlight ‘Anais & Me’ which centres around the whimsically contemplative vocals and the lyrics within. The protagonist of the song (presumably the ‘me’ in the title) reflects on the decisions and actions of the titular Anais; who drives to parties, dodges curfew and smokes. Snowball II use the vocals to enhance the lyrical message as they take on an awkward, self-conscious tone that sounds like it’s coming straight from the mouth of the main character. The instrumental qualities of the song touch more on alternative rock than power pop or shoegaze; although the vocals sound distinctly lower in the mix in a semi-Ride styling. As for its appeal; the song boils down to a simple case of being super enjoyable. That, really, is the crux of almost the entire album; there is always some sort of simple and minute form of enjoyment running through almost every song. ‘Groan’s’ is a more power pop centred song that showcases the undercurrents of indie music in the band’s sound. The song begins as a neat guitar riff plays through until the end of the verses where it dips into what sounds to be an out of time guitar section in a different key? This small piece of experimentation adds another dimension to the already fantastic song writing; the chorus rolls along and showcases the best elements of pop music; being superbly catchy and playful. All the while the vocals maintain the same kind of awkward bystander mentality as before; receiving significant help within the realms of ‘dorky charm’ by the lyrics, especially the chorus lyrics ‘It might be your birthday/But I made a cake for you’ to be precise. Snowball II turn things downtempo and perhaps even more shoegaze with ‘Sear ‘Em!’ that sounds much less playful than the previous two tracks. A fantastic drum beat maintains a heavier guitar sound; while a downtempo guitar plays under the mix to add contextual weight to the vocals.
‘CR-VUC’ starts with a weird kind of acoustic guitar and the slow churn of an organ in the background of the song that folds out into the alternative rock of previous songs. It sounds like a more fleshed out song; featuring a memorable chorus but perhaps even a memorable verse structure also. The small elements, like acoustic guitar, organ and an active drum section, make the song even more beautiful and showcase a diversity in the bands song writing. ‘Resident Of The United States’ is another album highlight; a brilliant guitar riff guides itself through a stop and start verse and chorus that builds around fantastic alternative rock melding’s and styles. ‘Your Occasion’ embodies the quirky, slow, freak-folk like elements of the band’s sound. This song is brilliant; it’s acoustic guitar driven verses drive it through to a much heavier, muted power pop kind of alternative musings. The instrumentation showcases what seems like a more ‘mature’ form of arrangement (that’s not to say the other songs are ‘immature’) and the vocals ooze a kind of nostalgic quality that does wonders for its mixing with the instruments and performance; truly fantastic. Reggae and dancehall blend with a kind of indie sensibility on ‘Appositive Stream’ a masterfully slight pop tune that features all the warmth that hipster-cum-indie bands often skip over. It’s a simple little song that is guaranteed to make you smile and think about the beach, or something.
‘Meet Yr Dad’ is the most comedic that Snowball II ever reach. It’s a racy spoken word folk-rock/alt-rock tune about everything related to relationships and that awkward past time of meeting the girls father. Similar to ‘Appositive Stream’, the song goes for less than three minutes; packing all of its wit and humour into a crafty, neat package that’s just as narratively absorbing as a seven-minute epic, or the five minute ballad like rock sounds at the start of the album. ‘I Exist’ sees the band embrace a psych pop sound and the off-kilter guitar sound that appeared ‘Groan’s’. It’s the lengthiest song on the second side of the album; I believe it to be the least interesting of all the songs on the album; taking on a fuller sound that begins to shine the light away from the bands stronger qualities; like performance and simple but adroit guitar riffs. ‘Is All’ is the furthest Snowball II stride from the sweltering, sunny quirks of their power pop sound; turning in a mesmerisingly beautiful ballad, influenced by soft rock, dream pop and a downtempo style of shoegaze. Built around a simple sequenced electronic pattern, the song builds upon the gentle strum of a guitar and the distant and hushed vocals. Altogether it sees the sun going down after a long day of beach dwelling; a kind of conceptual scenario the listener creates for themselves over the course of the album.
Flashes Of Quincy’s rating and conclusion of criticism could be boiled down to one simple, overriding fact; it is immensely enjoyable. It’s pure fun. And even when it’s downtrodden or darker lyrics or sounds seep into the music, it is still as invigorating to watch and listen to a band who create so much with such simple and straight forward sounds. Altogether, I feel as though the bands origin in Long Beach speaks some kinds of contextual volumes about the content in the songs; the visions of the ocean and the beach, of the pizza restaurant or the movie theatre you take the girl to on an awkward first date. Flashes Of Quincy, in this regard, at times sounds like a concept album of sorts; less of a story but more of a feeling or a place.
The band themselves turn in a magnificent performance across the entire album. The mixing and the production injects nothing but strength into the music; relaying and clearly presenting all the aforementioned opinions and emotions. It’s a solid and thoughtful group of ballads and power pop tunes, wrapped in the warm embrace of shoegaze and alternative rock that reminds us all of sometime in the past; way back when. The band step above where many other rock based groups would drift away or remain clichéd, they do so through the avenues of performance, song writing and sound.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Cam Phillips is a writer and above all, a music lover, who seeks to gain experience through writing and listening. He is also an avid film viewer and art and literature junkie who enjoys creative writing. His most recent published work was featured on the Australian heavy music blog, I Probably Hate Your Band.