Souvenir Driver return with their fourth full length studio album. This collection is a self-titled affair, so it makes sense that it truly owns the band’s self-definition of being bliss pop. Recorded in an isolated cabin on Mt. Hood in Oregon, and at Trench Studios in Portland, this eight track collection has every bit of space and focus that you’d expect from a process that places the artists in the heart of nature.
We last heard from Souvenir Driver when they released Brace Yourself EP. That four-track collection tracks was a direct response to the election of Donald Trump into presidential office. Each track explored the themes broadly accepted in modern psychology – denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. It was a solid reflection of the time, and yet objection to the spectacle can often become the spectacle of objection. Vital and yet somehow limiting. On this new album Souvenir Driver move beyond a definition of themselves against a backdrop of events. Here is a definition of music as belonging truly within something.
Songwriter Nate Wey populates this open landscape with tales of interpersonal relationships and a deeply permeating affection for nature. There is beauty, and yet there are undercurrents beneath every surface. The same sentiments of the previous EP are evidenced here, but with a more nurturing, nuanced approach.
Opening track “Swans” sets the tone well. Instrumentally simple, lyrically polarizing; an exquisite ‘something’ happens in between . “You’re an angel / in the night time. / You’re a devil / in the daytime” are the first words we hear before a synth bed settles over a high-end picked guitar. “Tiny rivers in your head / Tiny echoes in your bed” bring human scale in the next verse. The impact of this track’s position in the sequence is that it is in no hurry to explain, define and impress – and for adopting that approach it is entirely definitive, impressive, and offers a crystal explanation of what kind of thing is going to follow.
For all the beauty and simplicity that Souvenir Driver accomplishes it is an album that is not devoid of confrontation or difficulty. There are moments here where vulnerability and the expressions of longing are so acute, the pressure forces a breathlessness. “Driftwood” is a track where Wey’s voice scales to a new height to sing “Maybe I love you” or is it “Baby, I Love you”? The tempo rocks back and forth like a person becoming a metronome, swaying under some kind of insomniac burden. It’s almost too much. It’s fantastic.
There’s not a weak spot in this collection – but tracks like “Dive”, “Photographs” and “Voices of a Traveler” could be played on loop until all sense of self are washed away and few would complain. The Jungian-dream quality of these tracks especially offer a disconnect and yet also a sense of belonging – the collective unconscious of all things. And, of course, they sound better played loud.
Traveling quickly through the tracks it would be easy to tag this stuff as shoegaze – but quite the opposite description is required. Dream pop wonder blends with indie rock instrumentation. Elements swirl and become wonderfully dizzying – this album is a stargazer. Everything feels big here, and even though the celestial scale tips weight against our own petty concerns – our own petty concerns are handled with respect and awe and a sense of scale. This album, like all good art, points to the interdependence of all things. It’s really quite beautiful. Souvenir Driver have defined themselves well.
For their most accomplished album to date, and for achieving a shimmering self-realization, we award Souvenir Driver 17 out of 19 distant stars that someday may carry their names.
HURRY – LISTEN – SOUVENIR DRIVER