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Album Review

After a move to Vagrant in 2005, the Comas set about working on their fourth release, going up to an old mansion in the Catskills with producer Bill Racine to record. What resulted, Spells, certainly bears signs of Racine — who's also done stuff with the Flaming Lips and Rogue Wave — on the whole a much poppier album than what the band has done before. Certainly, the slower, darker motifs found on Conductor are still present, like in "Light the Pad" or "After the Afterglow," but there's also a turn here toward the more upbeat, the more lighthearted, like in the Breeders-meets-the Muffs single "Red Microphone" or the driving "New Wolf." Even the more bittersweet tracks, "Now I'm a Spider," for example, have a Wayne Coyne-esque chorus warmth to them that reminds you that the Comas are a developing band who don't remain stagnant, who aren't afraid to use tasteful synths, if need be (in the darker, Interpol- or Killers-inspired "Come My Sunshine," for example), or dig deep into 1980s lo-fi and jangle pop to find new ideas and sounds. This does mean that from time to time Spells seems a bit disjointed, especially the transition from the first two high-energy songs — "I am a malfunctioning android set on search and destroy!" lead singer Andrew Herod yells, taking a cue from Iggy Pop, perhaps, on "Hannah T" — into the softer "Now I'm a Spider," as if the songs (almost all written entirely by Herod) came from different sessions, from two different moods, but there's still enough consistency in the fuzzed-out guitars, the male and female vocal harmonies, to give a kind of stability to the album and a foundation from which the group can reach out. Spells is both a look back to the past and a push into the future, pop music made from 21st century urban landscapes in rural mountain homes, and though it may not be flawless, it's pretty satisfying nonetheless.


Formed: 1998 in Chapel Hill, NC

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s

The Comas formed in Chapel Hill, NC, in March 1998 as a joke country band, a sort of counterweight to the hyped No Depression movement. Before long, however, both the "joke" and the "country" parts of the concept were eliminated, thus allowing the band to develop into a quirky alternative rock outfit. The Comas' respectable 1999 debut, Wave to Make Friends, was comprised of sleepy (but not lethargic) indie pop and off-kilter boy-and-girl vocal harmonies, courtesy of co-founders Andrew Herod and Nicole...
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Spells, The Comas
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