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Strange Hearts

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Album Review

On its second album (at least under the Secret Cities name), the North Dakota trio works a bit more in the vein with which it first came to greater attention — intentionally lo-fi/murky sonics crossed with a sprightly late-'60s Beach Boys jones as refracted through winsome indie sensibilities and sonics of the 21st century. A mouthful, perhaps, but it's the best way to describe Strange Hearts, an intentional collage of all sorts of things into the group's own particular shape. On that front they're one of many bands in recent years who work in generally similar veins — call it the impact of everything from the legacy of Elephant 6 to the continuing decenteredness of the music industry in general — but there are plenty of enjoyable songs throughout, even if, as heard straight through, it's a bit repetitive in the end. But said songs, like "The Park," beginning with quiet vocals and piano before the full arrangement kicks in, and "Brief Encounter," with its stately spaghetti Western horns and flourishes dissolving into a loop of mechanistic rumbles, show that there's a spirit at work amid all the general feeling of collage and homage. If Strange Hearts isn't per se a major work, it has more going for it than most dull rock-by-numbers out there, a self-contained sonic world.

Customer Reviews

Great Sound

Recorded in the basement of a crumbling bank in the midwest, Secret Cities manages to sound haunting, sweet, and pragmatic all wrapped up in a lo-fi package.

MJ Parker and Charlie Gokey started the group at 15, growing out of a shared affinity for psychedelic pop, which is still clearly evident here, as is the influence of "AM pop," an inspiration cited by the band after penning this album in just a few months.

"The Park" and "Love Crime" are both standout tracks, but buy the entire album: Secret Cities won't disappoint, as their sound is a treat anytime their tunes come up on shuffle on your iPod.

--Free Sushi Podcast (available on iTunes).


Formed: 2005 in Fargo, ND

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Fargo, North Dakota trio Secret Cities construct sweetly haunting, lo-fi chamber pop melodies. After meeting in band camp, M.J. Parker and Charlie Gokey started making home-recorded cassettes under the name White Foliage when they were 15 years old, collaborating by mail from their separate sides of North Dakota. Three years in, after building up a small collection of tapes, a friend put them in touch with the people at Baltimore's Fall Records, who released Secret Cities' first album, Zurich (under...
Full Bio
Strange Hearts, Secret Cities
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Customer Ratings