Review: ‘Grace/Confusion’ by Memory Tapes

joel wosk plays us a memory…

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Memory Tapes, the recording alias of New Jersey based musician, Dayve Hawke, have released their third album Grace/Confusion on December 4, 2012. The follow-up to last year’s Player Piano, finds Hawke expanding and refining his approach to the sound he has cultivated on his previous two albums (the aforementioned Player Piano and 2009’s Seek Magic). The tag-happy music community has labeled Memory Tapes as “dream pop” and/or “chill wave”, and although I feel that these tags are applicable in some respect, his albums encompass a wider range of musical genres that make his music slightly more challenging to categorize. Hawke’s gift for melody and creating complex musical landscapes, rife with overdubs, and a gentle/ethereal vocal delivery makes Grace/Confusion one of my personal favorite albums of the past year.

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Grace/Confusion is a mere six tracks long, but with four of those tracks clocking in at over six minutes, the running time is close to forty minutes. Album opener “Neighborhood Watch” begins with a psychedelic guitar intro, which then fades in Hawke’s gentle voice before transitioning into the heart of the song filled with electric drumbeats and a bridge section featuring dark bass tones. The track is a perfect segue from the lighter pop sound of Player Piano, into the tighter more electronic sound that is prevalent in the new material.

Two of the album’s songs, “Safety” and “Let Me Be,” have a slightly darker tone to them, and recall mid-80’s Depeche Mode. Black Celebration (1986) immediately came to mind, but not in the derivative sense. “Let Me Be,” with it’s foreboding electronic bass lines and harmonized vocals, conjures similar feelings while still retaining it’s own identity. The two consecutive tracks are certainly darker in comparison to the rest of the album, but these songs give the album an element of dynamism, bringing together both darkness and light. This is perfectly demonstrated by “Shelia” which follows the two previous tracks.

“Shelia” is a standout track and it is probably the most accessible of all the songs on the album. With it’s danceable beats and romantic overtones, it would not seem out of place on a party playlist. Perhaps an after-hours party playlist, but it’s still a solid jam. Grace/Confusion should not be overlooked and is Memory Tapes best work to date in my opinion. With so many catchy hooks across the entire album, and in many instances within individual songs, the album warrants and even benefits from repeated listening.

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