Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD)
Even without looking at their biography, which includes frontwoman Aleksa Palladino’s extensive acting credits, it’s not a stretch describe Exitmusic as “cinematic.” It’s in the way they use reverberating textures and Palladino’s dramatic soprano rasp, which has rightfully been compared to everyone from Zola Jesus to David Bowie. But now, the duo’s biography has something of plot twist: The band’s third full-length The Recognitions, is a document of the former partners’ romantic unraveling.
The Recognitions isn’t a sad album, but it is one on which Palladino and bandmate Devon Church explore complex emotional spaces—the grieving process played out in stereo. Moments of personal reflection (“It’s just you and me / And a reshuffled dream / That calls you away again,” Palladino sings on “Trumpets Fade”) are saved from outright sorrow by layers of guitar and reverb, casting the duo in the role of celestial messengers with dirt under their nails. These heavy contrasts are especially evident on “Criminal,” where the song’s heavy use of bass, drums, and vocal reverb evoke the hazier moments of Blonde Redhead. Similarly, the slow build of “To The Depths” allows Palladino’s soprano to transform from vapor to a Victoria Legrand-like growl, before being met—and temporarily absorbed—by heavy guitars and clapping rhythms at the song’s apex. When they do finally air their emotions candidly, the moment feels like a well-earned reveal; on the piano-and-voice closing track “The Distance,” where Palladino declares “I know I didn’t believe you the distance had become the one / Way road of the shooting star into the sun.” Breaking up can be messy and painful, but Palladino and Church seem willing to embrace and cross-examine their changing narrative.