Joy Zipper American Whip

While never exactly transcending their classic pop and shoegazer influences to create a sound uniquely their own, this Long Island-bred duo nevertheless do not disappoint with the North American release of their sophomore effort. Intensely dreamy, luxurious melodies combined with enigmatically dark lyrics, listening to this album is like lazily enjoying a giant wad of cotton candy while watching the freak show at Coney Island; you can’t deny the kitsch factor but there’s still something eerily seductive about the entire experience. Comparisons to Brian Wilson have been plentiful, and not just because of the lush harmonies and dense soundscapes; the playfulness of an interlude like "Drugs” is reminiscent of Wild Honey’s more wholesome but equally tongue-in-cheek "Mama Says” and the desperation lurking behind the candy joy of "Christmas Song” recalls and surpasses the more subtle melancholy that pervades Pet Sounds. Produced and mixed by chief songwriter Vincent Cafiso and his partner Tabitha Tindale, the album also strongly benefits from the contributions of assistant producers Kevin Shields (My Bloody Valentine) and famed UK DJ and film composer, David Holmes — the latter rounding out the only straightforwardly creepy track, the moody and unsettling "Alzheimers.” Elaborate, Beatles-esque string arrangements (violins, cellos, violas, flugelhorn and glockenspiel) sit comfortably alongside shimmering, deceptively simple guitar pop — usually within the same song — but the juxtaposition is natural and unforced. Despite wearing their influences on their sleeves, Joy Zipper have created an album that is easy to appreciate on its own terms and a perfect lazy afternoon soundtrack that ultimately leaves the listener with a sweetness too prickly to be suffocating. (Arisen)