At North Elementary’s core, there’s an unforced, natural center that creates the feeling of a pastoral summer day. The sunny melodies’ carefree shimmy invites a picnic-blanket smooch, while warm keyboard textures undulate gently in the background, trees gently swaying in the breeze. The tempos drift, with occasionally chugging guitars that soon jangle. The songs never seem anxious to be somewhere. Like a devil and angel on frontman John Harrison’s shoulders, the music’s pulled between two poles—billowing psych guitar with hazy keyboard swells and power pop/ college rock, all with flashes of folk.
Harrison spent several years in The Comas a decade ago. That’s when he began working on North Elementary. Over the interim, they’ve released seven albums and two handfuls of EPs and 7"s behind a number of different lineups anchored only by Harrison’s wavering, wheedling tenor. In the battle between the colorful atmospheres and more straightforward hook-laden pop, the latter tends to define their live shows, while the former exercises its prerogatives in the studio.
Everything sounds widescreen yet not necessarily excessive, allowing space for Harrison’s ever-sharp melodies to gain hold. It’s richness becomes more apparent over time. —Chris Parker