“Soft on Glass” C20
(White Reeves Productions)

Soft on Glass is the album Radiohead wished they made just now, but you know what, you Oxford snobs? Pay the Rent got there first, and I’ve been spinning this more often than A Moon Shaped Pool for the past couple … hours now, I guess. (This is Monday, May 9, on which I’m writing this.) And Radiohead’s new record is good, don’t get me wrong – I’m just astounded by Pay the Rent, a Pittsburgh-area trio who wring more raw emotion from their instruments than those dead-eyed Brits ever could.

(Again, really, nothing against Radiohead. I like them quite a lot actually.)

To the point: I knew I was going to like Soft on Glass even before I heard it, and I’m here to tell you that you will too, so click on the White Reeves link below and buy this sucker. See, the promo material mentions a couple artists in its RIYL that I’m a huge fan of: Cliff Martinez, Brian Eno, and Angelo Badalamenti. I’m going to add Stars of the Lid, Labradford, and Ólafur Arlands to the conversation as well, because everybody should be invited to this party. It’s a party where we’ll all likely fall asleep at some point early in the evening, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy some wine or brandy before we do.

John and Mike Kasunic and Pete Mudge comprise Pay the Rent, and through guitar and synthesizer they hit staggeringly epic highs while pacing listeners glacially to the payoff. This is at once surprising and impressive – I get goosebumps while listening to these great tunes as they unfold like fauna in a nature documentary growing at time-lapse speeds. The combination of slow tempo and pinpoint control allow Pay the Rent to precisely manipulate details of chemical responses within the listener. That’s a grossly overwrought way of saying about Soft on Glass, “Me likey.”

“Knaut” starts us down the Badalamenti path and eases us into territories where stylized visuals and colors burst before closed eyelids, and “Lower Down” blooms like a supernova and settles into a distributary tranquility as particles extend outward. “Diana” creates a whole new genre in the midst of all of this, one I’ll call “noir kosmische,” recalling only the coolest synth maestros going today, like Bastian Void or Adderall Canyonly or White Reeves’ own Earth Vessel. And these are mere examples of a significant whole, one that manages to live an entire lifetime (in album years) in the span of twenty minutes. Impressive? You betcha.

And Pay the Rent does all this without words, tapping into both beauty and paranoia – something a certain band from Oxford can’t do. Aw heck, I mean Radiohead again. And their words are fine. And A Moon Shaped Pool is fine. But Soft on Glass is transcendent, people. Make it the soundtrack to whatever happens in your head today.

--Ryan Masteller