Washington DC trio Western Affairs have set the controls for a journey into outer space. The only problem is they didn’t think they’d miss loved ones so much but they were kind enough to write some great songs about the experience and here we have half a dozen tracks almost overcome by melancholia and dreampop effects.
For ‘Iowa’, the spacious production and emotional cracks in the vocal delivery call to mind a low budget version of The Helio Sequence. It’s possibly the most uptempo track on the EP, which is remarkable considering the first line is “Give it up. You’re in over your head”. Yet as the album draws on, the cosmic synths come in to sharper focus and closer comparisons can be made to The Flaming Lips; the earnest soulful vocals allying particularly well with the jabbing synths and increasingly frenetic drums for ‘Part 2’.
The highlight, however, is ‘1999’ (which bears no relation to the Prince song of the same name) and it’s the moment where the human fragility and outer space effects are most closely in unison to present a gorgeous heartbreaking melody. The sense of loneliness becomes more apparent track by track (in fact it’s hard to think of the word “alone” appearing with such frequency on any other record) so on ‘Control’ the sadness and sense of loss is very tangible and by the time of the title track – featuring the distant calls of children and a melancholic guitar figure – there’s no turning back at all.
By the end of it all, dreampop only tells half the story. This is electronic soul music which has a grounded, very human feel despite its associations with space. Imagine Eels’ Mark “E” Everett marooned on a distant planet and you’re there, complete with the requisite tunes to make these doomed romantic tales sound a whole lot more attractive than they have any right to be.
The Flaming Lips, Eels, The Helio Sequence