Part Time: Spell #6
Review by Evan Balikos.
Twists, turns, and infectious melodies await you on Part Time’s enchanting sixth album, Spell #6.
A lot of indie bands have figured out that listeners need to be coaxed into a music trance through oceans of reverb and modulated vocals that bellow sweet nothings. Guitars must be tuned to the highest pitch so that those tasty riffs can simmer long after they have left the soundscape, synthesizer notes are absolutely necessary for every melody, and drum are to remain far from chaotic. The un-scholarly truth is people sometimes just want to get high, and that the music is either the catalyst or the supplement. For Part Time, carrying on this trend of “mood music” is very much in play, but to their credit, what they take from the 80’s sound song bin they prove to have a deep admiration and respect for in their execution. Part of Spell #6 is wobbly lo-fi meets pop-experimentalism, and the other half is pure indie rock nuance. With these efforts combined, Spell #6 amounts to a delightful 52 minutes of music too exuberant to ignore.
“Hide” starts with a punchy synthesizer and bass line intro before being splashed by its smooth-as-silk guitar melody and tumbling percussion. It is immediate and jumpy and sounds like you’re going on a journey with the lead singer, David Loca. Lines like “And I don’t like all the suffering I see/ And I don’t know what to do to give and bide/ before I hide” add some tension to the adventure. This is even more satisfying when you get to a beautiful piano solo, where the notes and the shimmering synth tones teleport you into the sky.
Fitting with this theme of total isolation, the aptly titled “So Far Away”: is a song about a great escape. Those rotating key tones in the intro—bright, hopeful, and alluring—will knock themselves around your head long after the 5-minute song has run its course. It is abstract for the sake of musical mysticism; the vocals sink deep into the textures of pulsating synth waves and a heavenly saxophone solo. It is the perfect prom song; a theme for two young lovers spinning alone in the spotlight.
One thing Part Time does quite well is start a song off on a good, often intriguing, note. The album’s opener, “Before You Fall Apart” is trailblazer. It paces itself with a pleasant guitar lead and the howling of what sounds like vocal tones from a keyboard before a cymbal smash comes into the mix to make for an upbeat rock song that is inarguably comparable to the goth rock gods, The Cure. (C’mon, I had to make at least one comparison). “Shattered Love” shoots for full on New Wave, with that hokey horn section and zig-zag rhythm, but it’s a mostly harmless dance number that is sure to shake some hips. It’s about heartbreak, and it’s refreshing to see pouty lyrics like “Was it fun? / Did you laugh? / Did your love cut me in half?” not be used to accompany a grunge-flavored power-chord.
“I Can Treat You Better”, which was the first single for Spell #6, sees Speck and guest vocalist Ariel Pink appear as nice guys who hammer in that hook consistently; it’s almost like they can hear their crush rejecting them. Its arrangement is predictable and nowhere near as savory as the other songs in the collection, but its sax solo (the first of many on the album) saves it from a banal existence alongside other more glowing tracks. Yet, for every misstep, there are notable (even commendable) moments on Spell #6. The title track is gorgeous. Its guitar sections stretch widely into glam rock-sized wonder in its interlude. The dark tones of bass and “ahhhs” that surround Speck’s lyrics really make you want to fly, and the twinkling tones that appear towards the end will raise you higher and higher with each strum.
Part Time’s Spell #6 is a bit of a complicated chameleon. Sometimes it wants to be spacey and have a darkness to it—really take its time to envelop the listener in its musical sea—and other times it wants to be snappy and sporadic by throwing colorful and irresistible melodies at us. It isn’t cohesive as an album, but it’s doesn’t necessarily want to be one; it might just want to be a collection of cool, sweetly-tuned, sometimes ascending songs. There’s something here for everyone. You might be into the swift and faintly Country-western arrangement of “The Boys That Make Her Cry”, or maybe you’re craving the zoinked out, kick-pedal-infused funk of “I Didn’t Know”; whatever it is, you’ll likely find pleasure in two total opposites. Part Time’s latest proves that indie rock isn’t dead, its simply evolving with, and within, the times.