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Relix Review: Cymbals Eat Guitars’ ‘Pretty Years’


By Ryan Reed

With 2014’s LOSE, indie-rock philosopher Joseph D’Agostino crafted a woeful yet celebratory eulogy for a late friend. The fourth Cymbals Eat Guitars LP mourns a different sort of death: “Goodbye to my dancing days,” the guitarist yelps over loping drums and frizzled Rhodes. “Goodbye to my pretty years.” Across 10 turbulent tracks, D’Agostino and company transform existential angst into communal catharsis—recounting post-Columbine nightmares (piano ballad “Mallwalking”), bizarre tour stories (distorted psych singalong “4th of July, Philadelphia (SANDY)” and assorted reflections on mortality. Like LOSE before it, Pretty Years is full of surprising musical touches—from the woozy synthesizers of “Close” to the atonal free-jazz skronk that decorates “Wish.” Producer John Congleton emphasizes the band’s muscle—even the spaciest sections of Springsteen-tinged epic “WELL” punch through with a force suited for classic-rock radio. The album’s emotional centerpiece is the aforementioned “4th of July”—D’Agostino looks back fondly on a wild night of youthful insanity with tourmate Alex G, but he can’t suppress his melancholy for the passing of time. “My life is sliding by,” he sighs, depressed that he can’t add more poignancy to life’s simple moments. Ironically, he’s done exactly that—through song.