The Los Angeles duo Ablebody features Christoph and Anton Hochheim, identical twins who’ve played guitar and drums, respectively, in The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart and The Depreciation Guild. Like those two groups, the brothers’ own project hews toward pristine, retro-leaning sounds and styles. More specifically, Adult Contemporaries’ gauzy keyboard layers, percolating rhythmic backbone and antique-sounding riffs take their cues from vaporous ’80s synthpop and the hushed indie rock of Sarah Records.
Dramatic strings, tick-tock drums and fervent guitars drive standout “Gaucho,” “Backseat Heart” is a dead ringer for Prefab Sprout’s plush pop, and the morose, keyboard-sparkled “Marianne” references the House of Love’s wistful early work. Appropriately, the Hochheim brothers are meticulous vocalists, fond of adopting the earnest, debonair affectations of the mid ’80s U.K. sophisti-pop scene, which suits Adult Contemporaries’ approach. However, the record offers more than just vintage approximations: The soulful “Send Me A Letter,” for example, features lead vocals from Sean Nicholas Savage, whose desperate, breathy articulation resembles the approach of Shearwater’s Jonathan Meiburg.
Paradoxically, Adult Contemporaries’ swooning textures amplify its underlying thematic tension: being a hopeless romantic leads to situations fraught with indecision and anxiety. “You’ll stay in my heart/But I can’t tell you what you want from me,” the band whispers conspiratorially on “Heart Keep,” while the sighing, jangly “After Hours” is equal parts indecisive and imploring: “Is this right?/I just can’t decide/Don’t fear your heart/Cast your doubt aside.” On the Smiths-esque “Say What You Will,” the push and pull between expectations and reality can be exhilarating—“Say what you want/But you don’t say much/Say what you want/But I feel your touch”—or confounding, as on “The Sun A Small Star”: “I lie here with you, but you’re not there when I open my eyes.”
Still, the ache of this quixotic uncertainty is gorgeous and enveloping. If anything, the members of Ablebody find Adult Contemporaries’ romantic melancholy deeply comforting, something in which to revel rather than resist.