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14 September 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Film School | Bright to Death. Reviewed by Elizabeth Klisiewicz.

Film School – Bright to Death
Release date: 9/14/2018

I have followed Film School for years and was delighted to hear about this fantastic new record. It is their fifth release and first full length recording since 2010. Without diving back into their catalogue, I can only say that this new release is stuffed full of memorable and downright terrific songs with a multitude of textures. The range of styles include dream pop, synth pop, post punk, and elements of psych.

The album title is taken from artwork seen by singer/guitarist Greg Bertens at an exhibit by Chinese students on the theme of global warming. The phrase ‘bright to death’ popped into his head as the band recorded in Joshua Tree. Four members from the original lineup are on this record, as well as a guest appearance from Adam Wade (Shudder to Think, Jawbox) on several songs.

The elegant “Crushin” opens up this release, and it’s heady, romantic air saturates the senses with a perfumed, sonic splendor. The chilled-out keys, bass, and guitar lines frame it perfectly. To think it came out last May, it doesn’t seem that long. “Don’t Send My Love” is a catchy gem with a gentle feel that I adore. The production is crystal clear and immediate. “Bye Bye Bird” is another winner, one of my top picks on a record crammed with amazing tunes. Talk about a strong melody, it just grabs me up and never lets go. And you have to dig that buzzing synth darting through the mix!

“Two in Sun” hovers on the shoegaze periphery but lands more in the swooning psych school of dreamgaze that delights and cajoles my ears. “The Celebration” is another favorite, instantly reminding me of the harder-edged days of The Cure, but not in any way derivative. The chilly synths and cold waves of bass and drums swirl around Bertens like a doom cloak. Yet, the chorus erupts with a brighter edge. And oh, “Go Low” is so bloody cool and excellent. I really love the keyboard washes that propel this slow simmering tune along. Brilliant!

“Here in the Shadows” once more visits the altar of cold wave by way of synth pop. Bertens lends a great vocal to this evocative hook fest, one that screams single to me! “In Two” is so pretty, taking me back to the glory days of synth pop, but the lush production is instantly modern. “Bright to Death” is akin to living inside a silver-infused daydream, clouds split through by rays of sunlight. Imagine drifting through the water on a lazy summer day and dipping your sun blistered feet in cool water. Soothing and essential listening! “Waking Up” brings the album to a close on a very high note, soft, chiming notes stroking the senses. It is cheerful and rather sublime, and I am sorry to come to the end. An excellent addition to Film School’s body of work, and quite possibly the best thing they’ve ever done. Highly recommended!