Gem Club Breakers

Nostalgia is the pervasive thread in the recent slew of mellow dream pop outfits, and Gem Club's debut LP is sewn in a similar vein. The piano and cello duo of Christopher Barnes and Kristen Drymala, respectively, weave themselves an expansive, yet tightly knit, piano-driven collection in which they explore the theme of looking back in order to let go. In an album where silence is just as important as sound, Breakers is laden with heaviness, despite airy, breathy vocals, and there's something almost icy and brisk about the sparseness of the sonic landscapes created by the droning keys and Barnes's plaintive falsetto and closed-mouth way of melting words together. Even with the subtle, yet steady, build and progression of each track, Breakers lacks a culmination, as the album as a whole plateaus. The relatively climactic "252" is the standout track, featuring both Barnes and Drymala's vocals, which complement each other so well that you wonder why the pairing don't utilize it more. Their voices bleed into an almost indistinguishable mass, creating a fuller, more majestic lamentation of the sorrow set up thus far. Picture a scene in an independent film where the lovesick protagonist goes for a late night walk downtown and feels completely alone despite the constant stream of passers-by ― Breakers would be the perfect backdrop. Yes, the album's propensity towards songs of a singular lamenting tone is undeniable. Still, Breakers is a stunning debut for the Massachusetts duo, whose strength lies in the quiet impact of the humming aftermath of their minimalist approach. (Hardly Art)