by Eli Enis (@eli_enis)
Blushing is one of our body's most curious emotional reactions, a silent yet visible indication of either flattery or embarrassment. It's a physical communication that we're uncomfortable in some way, and it's an unmistakable feeling—one that's distinctly palpable, warm and vivid. Brooklyn band Blush, which features the songwriting talents of ex-Darlings guitarist/vocalist Maura Lynch and members of Pill and Pop. 1280, created a sonic manifestation of that balmy reflex on their self-titled debut. It's a keenly textural record that, like its namesake, uses subtly to convey its emotions. Although it flirts with the more mellow side of the current psych-folk revival (spearheaded by artists like Angel Olsen, Kevin Morby, and Big Thief), brushes against 60's girl-group nostalgia a la Bleached and The Courtneys, and is mixed with the intimacy of "bedroom" acts like Lomelda and Soccer Mommy, Blush slides effortlessly into a groove all of its own.
After an intro track that’s uncharacteristically flaccid compared to what follows, the peppy outlier “Baby Don’t Blush” is the first moment of genuine captivation. The song’s serrated lead lick recalls the guitar solo in Japanese Breakfast’s “Everybody Wants to Love You,” and actually serves a similar purpose within the sonic context of this album; the bright yet gritty tone providing a noticeable contrast to the hazy timbre of the tracks that surround it. However, whereas the steaminess of J Brekkie’s Psychopomp evokes the bleak, uninviting smog that seeps out of alleyways and subway stations, the humidity of Blush is reminiscent of the vapors that kiss your skin as you step out of a hot shower.
Some albums that share this quality can be characterized as dreamy, but Blush transports you to a place of tranquility while keeping you conscious, catalyzing serenity without ever becoming wallpaper in the way that famously tactile records like Loveless and Untrue do during their respective side b’s. If anything, the latter half of this record is when its at its most alert. “Fire Island” is a woodsy instrumental that Lynch hums over frugally as speckles of indefinable reverb chirp in the background like nocturnal critters at water’s edge. “Lunching Alone” adds lyrics, but eventually glides back into a nightly stroll accompanied by Lynch’s coo.
The last two cuts, “Fantasy” (a Mariah Carey cover) and “Just Kidding,” are the best. The former anoints the lead riff with a kaleidoscopic flanger effect that hijacks the melody from Lynch halfway through, a gorgeous transition that showcases how this band places vocals and instruments on the same plane. Removing the competition between organic and inorganic noises takes conscious effort, and a complete lack of ego within the group, but it’s necessary to attain the sonic continuity that Blush do here—which is how spectacular handoffs like this one go off without a hitch. On the finale “Just Kidding,” the band actually toss the melody back and forth, Lynch and her fellow guitar riff taking turns molding the hook into different shapes over a steady, velveteen bass line.
At just eight tracks across a mere 20 minutes, Blush still managed to compose one of the most satisfying album arcs of the year; the straightforward bop of its first half gradually slipping into creamy bass lines accented with hushed hooks, ringing guitars, and gratifying yet unobtrusive climaxes. It's a true beauty.