Since releasing their debut EP, Cryptozoology, in July, Los Angeles-based sextet Handshakes are already onto the next one. Continuing the trend of alternative, infectious harmonies and bright guitar riffs consistent with that of their initial album’s anchor, “Ridge,” Villains and Crooks is an increasingly consuming album that pulls listeners deeper into indie rock heaven with each ascending track.
The opening track, “Vacation,” is a three-minute dance invitation that leads me to believe that Handshakes’ upcoming Silverlake Lounge residency is likely to become a recurring hometown party. Infectious, repetitive percussion and bass make it hard to not find yourself nodding your head to the catchy beats. With “I Know,” Handshakes moves into an early Weezer-esque instrumental sound that warms my heart with Rivers Cuomo-soundtracked junior high memories, back when I listened to bands pure of overanalyzed hooks, harmonies, and content — just good music.
Moving forward, Handshakes slows things down, and it’s easy to tell why they chose to name the album after “Villains and Crooks” — the song is the strongest we’ve heard yet. Seamless vocal progression proves that the group, large in number, can go from Weezer circa 2001 to M83 circa 2008. With layered melodies, the band showcases their ability to create a full, rich sound. Three tracks in, we’ve experienced nostalgia and resonance. Let’s push into some pop-rock sentiment with “Explosions” and enjoy the album’s evolution with swelling emotion and a continuation of the organic compilation.
The album closes with “Open Air,” which starts with the same level of energy as the prior tracks, but quickly proceeds to feature increasing tempos and anthemic guitar solos before concluding the EP with a fast-paced cadence and upbeat tenor. With only 5 tracks covering such a range of skill and mood, Villains and Crooks has a little something for everyone.
Handshakes will be playing a Monday night residency at the Silverlake Lounge during the month of December in promotion of Crooks and Villians‘ December 4th release.
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