Craft Spells follows the kind of story that is highly common in this internet era. A young man, in this case Justin Vallesteros, decides to make some music from his bedroom and spread it around the world under the name Craft Spells. Eventually he’s picked up by the rapidly growing dreampop/shoegaze label Captured Tracks. He puts out a full-length titled Idle Labor and gains quite a bit of success. That’s essentially the story behind California’s Craft Spells and how Vallesteros has reached this point.
The latest offering from this project is an EP titled Gallery. It’s a release that focuses on presenting a number of great tracks that are easy to get into. In fact, they are the perfect initiation for someone trying to get into the band as they showcase the project’s dreampop sensibilities. However, they also seem to be very much influenced by new wave music. This is apparent throughout the whole EP. The opening track “Still Left With Me” shows that Vallesteros knows how to use his low-key voice to create some pretty great hooks. The ever-present synth is both a throwback to the ’80s and a reminder of the main influences for the project.
The EP is mostly compromised of shadowy yet catchy melancholy tunes. As sad as some of these tracks may sound, they all contain some sort of big hook. A prime example is “Leave My Shadow,” which is a highly self-deprecating track yet it still contains a pretty strong chorus and a somewhat danceable beat (“Countless times I’ve tried before to leave my shadow”).
There’s still a slight beacon of light that exists packaged in between the EP. Fifth track “Sun Trails” is much less somber than the preceding tracks and stays on the romantic side. Furthermore, it shows off Craft Spells’ resemblance to new wave bands as one of the synth notes is extremely similar to the setting used in New Order’s hit “Bizarre Love Triangle.”
The Gallery EP is a pretty good introduction to Craft Spells as a whole; it never strays too far from the formula used in Idle Labor. At 23 minutes it’s a relatively short listen and the hooks should keep listeners engaged. Even those who aren’t necessarily fans of the genre might find themselves enjoying this release. Craft Spells is one of the most promising acts in the current dreampop circuit, and if you’ve slept on him then don’t fret – you’ve still got time to catch up.