COUSINS are a garage pop duo from Halifax, Nova Scotia, whose music plays considerably brighter and more summery than the cold, wet part of the world they hail from. Their third album, The Halls Of Wickwire, just dropped on Ba Da Bing and Hand Drawn Dracula Records.
It’s been more than two years since Cousins released their last full-length, and it’s fair to say they’ve used the time to refine their sound and focus more on production. Guitarist Aaron Mangle and drummer Leigh Dotey fill an impressive amount of space and create some satisfying sonic textures for just the two of them. Guitars buzz and shimmer, drums pound, and the pair moan behind the wall of sound. The album’s volume alone is remarkable — everything is heavily compressed, giving the songs an explosive feel that’s difficult to achieve without additional instruments.
The Halls Of Wickwire has a nice dynamism to it. The first three tracks are sweet and poppy, with memorable vocal lines (“You came back to the oceaaaaan!” and “No one should be alone” stand out) and big crescendos that give them a dose of raucousness. By the end of “Alone,” the third cut, things begin to feel a little static, but fortunately Cousins deliver. “At Odds” is a spare, lonely number that features Mangle crooning wearily over a stripped guitar line and minimal percussion. The thick fuzz and crashing drums don’t reenter until the pulsing chorus almost two minutes later, and the song rolls out as quietly and creepily as it began.
Cousins are at their best when they’re playing on that type of tension. “Body,” the strongest cut on the record, rumbles in with low vocals, distant guitar, and tight drums, then bursts open in the refrain: “It’s the electricity / It’s the electricity in me and you / It’s my body / It’s my body in the end.” “Mess” swells and recoils in a similar way, and Cousins push their garage rambunctiousness to the limit in the punky call-and-response of “What’s Your Name.”
Other tracks aren’t as effective. “Death Man” is one of the most sonically heavy songs on the record, but the literalism in the lyrics makes it a tough pill to swallow: “I am the death man / Coming to take your life away / Coming to kill your family dead.” “Ocean” is tender enough, but plays a bit bland coming on the heels of the three bangers before it. And “Singing” is too childish to invite repeated listens. Like “Death Man,” the problem lies more with the lyrics and the sing-song melody than the musical accompaniment: “This is the last time you’ll hear this song / All the notes will stop, there won’t be any song.”
The Halls Of Wickwire’s weak cuts distract from the more thoughtful songs, leaving the impression that the album might have worked better cover-to-cover if Cousins had shaved it down to a concise EP. Nevertheless, it’s still a worthwhile listen. Cousins are on tour in the U.S. now.
Genre/ Tags: Garage Rock, Pop, Alternative
The Halls of Wickwire LP: Tracklist:
2.) Other Ocean
4.) At Odds
5.) Death Man
7.) What’s Your Name