Sarah Smith and Zach Phillips pack everything but the kitchen sink into every synth laden track despite using no sequencers or computers. Recorded exclusively through a Yamaha mt8x, the same equipment Ariel Pink used on his early releases, the sound of Wink With Both Eyes is muddy yet it strangely packs clarity. It’s a frenetic yet exhilirating musical experience. The expertly constructed vocal duets where Phillips’s sketchy contributions and Smith’s deadpan monotone wind in and out and around each other is amazing but the overwhelming feature of the record is the completely out of whack timing. Every track has a unique lag between its musical structures and applied rhythm. But what is amazing is that it produces a sort of ramshackled discipline that leaves your jaw on the floor. The attention to detail is forensic and the end result frenetic.
There’s also a certain hypnotic feel throughout the record and the duo use repetition to great effect. Check ‘Jason’s List’ as an example. The almost stream of conciousness tack gives the album a surreal feel and you feel inside and outside of it simultaneously. The up tempo moments are where the album is at its best. The aforementioned ‘Jason’s List, the drive of ‘Runny Day’, the wicked pace of ‘Ana’s Life’ and the tongue in cheek ‘Body Talk’ are standouts among many. Perhaps the best track is the heartfelt ode to the struggles of parenthood, ‘She’s Adopted’. Smith asks ‘where did my little girly fly, did I lose my little girl, can you see her in my eyes’ to which Phillips responds subtely underneath ‘I don’t wanna know, she’s adopted’. Smith finishes the line with hopeful resignation ‘she’s just one of the kids’.
The overwhelming cerebral character of Wink With Both Eyes when combined with its knowing nods to creative absurdity makes it one of the best albums of 2012. What’s incredible about that is the fact that this album is just one of five releases for the prolific and ultra talented duo but rather than get lost in the mire, Wink With Both Eyes stands alone as a definitive blueprint of the best that off-kilter pop has to offer.
James Stocker – November 24, 2012.
Blanche Blanche Blanche (USA)
From the album, ‘Wink With Both Eyes’, Night People.
Blanche Blanche Blanche Facebook