At this point it’s almost redundant to compare a new band to The Cure or My Bloody Valentine; Robert Smith and Kevin Shields have become such godfathers of their respective sounds—Smith and his moody new wave, Shields and his nebulous shoegaze—that any artist making remotely similar music can’t help but be inspired by them.
But sometimes, these comparisons are inevitable. “Kusmi,” the opening track to New York duo Minks’ debut album By The Hedge, opens with a synth line practically ripped from “Just Like Heaven,” and the shouted chorus to “Ophelia” could easily be mistaken for a Robert Smith backing track. Meanwhile, “Funeral Song” and “Bruises” both owe their wobbly synths and dense production to Loveless. Indeed, By The Hedge is a love letter that Sean Kilfoyle and Amalie Bruun have dedicated to the musicians who inspired them. Every guitar lick, each reverbed drumbeat, and every echo of a lyric reverberate with a record collector’s reverence—these are noises that we’ve all heard before, and Minks seem content to lay bare their sources of inspiration.
It would be a mistake, however, to dismiss Minks as “just another Joy Division ripoff.” While it’s true that they’re not doing anything new here, they also never come across as lazy or derivative. On “Juniper,” Kilfoyle and Bruun express their desire for “something to believe in.” The song ends not with a simple fade-out but rather with the repeating two-chord strains of an aching guitar, the melancholy hanging in the air like mist after a rainstorm. I’m not trying to sound poetic; there’s simply an after-the-rain vibe to the song that transcends its lo-fi charm.
And therein lies the key to this album’s success; Minks seek to capture not just the sounds of their forebears but the moods they felt listening to those older records. These twelve songs all use the same instruments and are structurally pretty similar, but the emotional nuances they capture give each song a distinct feel. “Life at Dusk” is all hushed excitement, building towards a cathartic climax that never comes; “Indian Ocean” sounds like the loneliness you may feel were you alone at sea or perhaps stuck in an empty house on a weekend afternoon. “Funeral Song” might say “so long to summertime, never coming back,” but it’s no dreary dirge; rather, its perky rhythm and hopeful chord changes, buoyed by Kilfoyle’s Dylanesque snarl, reveal an eagerness for the crisp purposefulness of autumn. Closer “Arboretum Dogs” wraps things up nicely, a happily exhausted sigh of a song that eschews a drumbeat for a gentler, calmer rhythm guitar.
Minks’ devotion to mood and texture may seem redolent of My Bloody Valentine’s foggy experiments, but By The Hedge isn’t nearly as sonically challenging or heady as Kevin Shields’s work. No, Minks have more modest goals as it turns out, their greatest inspiration comes not from the music of others but rather from within.