t's no secret that I'm a fan of early 80s new wave(wait, yes it is). Well I do. Love it. I love the analog synths. I love the electronic drums. Front and center bass and the lovelorn vocals. I think more than anything what I love about new wave is the nostalgia. It reminds me of being a kid. Hearing bands like Modern English, New Order, Soft Cell, Nena and A-ha on the radio. I eventually got to be a teen and began a musical phase filled with hair metal tomfoolery. This began some seriously crappy musical purchases until 1990, when I bought Soundgarden's Louder Than Love. Some folks had their `summer of love'. Well, 1990 began my `winter of grunge'. That winter lasted nearly 3 years. But we're not talking about grunge. We're talking about new wave. And Craft Spells Idle Labor.
I don't know how I came across Craft Spells to be honest. I believe it was the album cover that intrigued me more than anything. The album cover, sporting a bouquet a flowers displayed in a dream-like haze reminded me of New Order's Power, Corruption & Lies. So I thought I'd give it a shot. And I'm glad I did. Idle Labor is an album filled with unapologetic, irony-free new wave and 80s alternative music. From the first seconds of album opener `For The Ages' you know this isn't nostalgic for the sake of nostalgia. Somewhere between the Cure's lighter moments on Three Imaginary Boys and New Order's Brotherhood. Up next is `Scandinavian Crush'. It's like a Pet Shop Boys b-side and they have the electronic drums to prove it. `Party Talk' starts with a distant-sounding guitar, very Real Estate-like. Then the programmed drums come in and a very Ian Curtis-ish vocal steps out of the darkened, reverb-heavy darkness.
Craft Spells is the bedroom project of Justin Paul Vallesteros. He began writing songs in the winter of 2009 that would eventually become Craft Spells debut. Vallesteros looks like a 12 year old. Maybe he is. Or maybe he's a man-child. Either way, this kid has got the new wave/120 Minutes thing down pat. Along with a few of his contemporaries, like Porcelain Raft, Beach House, Real Estate and Diiv, Vallesteros and Craft Spells create a dreamy, hazy kind of throwback music that when you're listening to it doesn't feel like a throwback at all. It feels like a lost classic found in the dusty bargain bin of a local record shop. Craft Spells sounds like that record you find in your older sister's closet while searching for your copy of Men At Work's Cargo that she borrowed.
With songs like `Scandinavian Crush', `Party Talk' and `After The Morning', Craft Spells have put together an album of lovelorn new wave, sun-baked goth and synth-heavy dream pop that will find a permanent spot on my playlist. Idle Labor has also built a bridge back to my childhood and those summer days baking in the midwest sun, riding my Huffy dirt bike and `I Melt With You' echoing in the distance on someone's boom box.