The Bay area band Pllush once referred to themselves as “four-piece San Francisco sob rock,” and that’s perhaps the most fitting description to date. Critics have referred to them as a shoegaze or a dream pop revival band, but, according to vocalist and guitarist, Karli Helm, a fan recently shared the most accurate designation of the band’s sound to date, saying, “you may be headbanging but we know underneath your hair, you’re crying.”
Since arriving in the Bay Area music scene four years ago, the quartet comprised of Helm, guitarist and writer, Eva Treadway, drummer Dylan Lockey, and bassist Sinclair Riley, have made a habit of constantly evolving their autobiographical lyricism and ethereal melodies. In 2016 they released their EP, Please, garnering attention through five tracks full of reverberating guitars, layered melodies, and dreamy distortion. The EP distinguished the band as a force to be reckoned with, squaring them up with their influences a la Mazzy Star, Slowdrive, and Sonic Youth.
This June, they share their first full length, Stranger To The Pain, an album their most adamant critics (their parents and closest friends) have described as a “cleaner” and more “grown-up” version of their sound. The album still wallows in the dizzying melodies the band is known for, but the 12 tracks that make up this iteration are decidedly less superfluous.
Acknowledging the tighter, less distorted sound of the album, Helm shares, “we got rid of a lot of these reverb-y vocals and lots of the effects. We were like, we don’t need to hide behind the shoegaze veil anymore. I hope that people notice that, in a good way.”
The albums lead single, “Shannon,” shows off their newfound propensity for just the essentials. In it, Helm sings the chorus in high pitched breaking vocals as deftly played drums and steady strumming play in the background. The lyrics, “You ask me if I’ve ever felt this way / Well I don’t know / I’m hoping everything will fall into place / Well I don’t know / But I won’t” are sung with the shakiness of someone with newfound confidence, an effect that emphasizing the coming of age lyrics. Unlike their previous singles, with “Shannon” there’s space between the music to show off Helm’s vocal agility, allowing her to make her point before the music starts to swell in the bridge.