Album of the Day: Clearance, “At Your Leisure”

Clearance have always been a “show don’t tell” kind of band. Even on their earliest 7-inches of brainy, ’90s-inspired indie rock, the Chicago quartet held their hooks at arm’s length, letting the cloistered sound of their guitars do the emotional lifting while the often biting lyrics coolly observed proceedings from a metaphorical distance. Since releasing the comparatively ragged-sounding full-length Rapid Rewards in 2015, Clearance have, like many of their contemporaries, found inspiration anew in New Zealand and Australia’s cleaner, poppier iteration of indie rock.

With sophomore LP At Your Leisure, Clearance fully make the transition from guitar rock to guitar pop, with a pared down sound that favors warmth over crunch and hopeful sincerity over witticisms about the vacuous nature of consumer culture. This allows the band to take a more patient, studied approach to their music that suits its underlying complexity and newfound melodic focus. Upbeat opener “Chances Are” sets the mood for what’s to come with bright guitars and a wistful chorus reaching out towards a dream bobbing just beyond the horizon: “When it’s right in view / You never know what your chances are.”

At Your Leisure repeatedly returns to this liminal zone between hesitation and action, exploring the peculiar way past and present events change forms when viewed through varying prisms of time and distance. The lyrics are littered with allusions to the various ways we slice up time and space via minutes, days, seasons, and years. The songs mirror the lyrics’ malleable purview, often being presented with two distinct parts such as on the record’s strongest track “Haven’t You Got The Time?,” which starts out as crystalline jangle pop before unspooling into a mess of distorted guitars that harken back to the band’s earlier, rawer sound.

As a lyricist, Mike Bellis has always had a strong sense for the tactile, and At Your Leisure features some of Clearance’s most naturalistic, evocative imagery yet. Tart lines like “you’re concentrated like a frozen orange” hit all the senses at once, and references to coastlines, oceansides, and summer lawns throughout further add to the overall feeling of being unmoored in time and space, “wasted on the corner of the astral plane” as Bellis puts it on the record’s one true stomper, the angsty “Had a Fantastic.” As a result, At Your Leisure feels less like a definitive statement than a question in process of being asked, one with an answer worth pursuing just as it says on the cover.

-Mariana Timony

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