Gold – ‘Optimist’ (Album Premiere)
After a slow, steady build of haunting guitars backed by a pulsating, post-punk rhythm section, the first lyric on Optimist is "Binge-watching the world collapse". There aren't nearly enough bands with the confidence to state exactly who they are and what their message is in the first minute of an album, particularly when you're 'post-everything'. (If everything is post-, then is nothing post-? Discuss.) That poise is further solidified by producer Randall Dunn's deft touch; his track record (Earth, Ash Borer, Melissa Nadler) is almost an amalgam of what Gold is doing as they hit their critical third-album stride.
Still, dark rock with a mysterious, alluring singer is no longer the unique outlier in heavy music; what else sets Gold and Optimist apart? It starts with vocalist Milena Eva and her ability to bend each song's textures to her will. While she doesn't display a huge range on most of Optimist - though she does unleash some power on the towering "Be Good" - her voice glides alongside the instrumentation and becomes an instrument itself rather than a focal point. On "No Shadow" she mimics the verse staccatos and string bends during the chorus; during the sparse, ambient "Teenage Lust" she pulls back, almost as if singing a lullaby.
Given their pedigree (Gold shares a member with Dool, a band with the Devil's Blood rhythm section) and profile, it would have been easy for the band to go full witchy-psychedelic; it also would have been very boring. While one may be able to trace an influence back to progenitors like Jefferson Airplane or even Coven, the band draws from an expansive well beyond rock and its cult/psych offshoots. More than anything, the songwriting comes across as very deliberate. Notes are chosen and specifically placed at just the right moments. While that could be construed as stifling, on Optimist it paints specific pictures of self-reflection, personal connections and the universal themes of love and loss. Gold is redefining "mood music", and it's about time.
Gold themselves have provided liner notes to the album as follows:
You Too Must Die
"The album kicks off with this ominous, brooding track. If you thought this would be a light and bright album, within the first minute you've let go of that illusion. The first line 'Binge-watching the world collapse' surely sets the mood of what is to come."
"One might think the album title 'Optimist' is meant sarcastically, but it isn't. Darkness is the context of light and so there's absolutely light at the core of this album. 'Summer Thunder' is a self-motivational speech in which Milena tells herself to be patient and have faith that good things lie ahead. 'Wait for the darkness to be electrically lit'."
"Confusion, disturbance, distraction, interference... Welcome to the age of post-truth and alternative facts. Putin's politics are informed by Russian avant-garde theater and Trump's two-faced presidency coincides with the prophetic return of Twin Peaks. White noise has become a powerful tool to divide and conquer. For us this is a trade mark GOLD track, marrying the blackened with the serene into a droning and danceable unity."
"Teenage Lust is about naivety. We all sometimes have the urge to shut ourselves off from all the outside negativity, to bury our heads in the sand. This contemplation is wrapped in a minimal and cinematic song, the eye of the hurricane."
"This song is about struggling with how depression can isolate you, while you also want to feel connected and loved as no other. It’s very easy to drown in that feeling of loneliness and not being understood, but eventually everybody wants to be a part of something, anything really. In that spirit, this is one of the more straight forward songs on 'Optimist', with a pummeling beat, razor sharp guitars and an infectious chorus. This one is hard to ignore, truly no shadow."
I Do My Own Stunts
"We like to joke among ourselves that if Sonic Youth were a millennial band, this is how they would sound. 'I Do My Own Stunts' is a song about self-perception."
"Apathy is our nemesis. We've been shining our light on this heavily with the 'No Image' videos and it remains a topic on 'Optimist'. 'Don't serve me with your smile', Milena calmly, yet urgently sings over the foundation of primal beats and whirling guitars."
Come With Me
"Milena will be your guide, when you need a way out of the dark. In an alternative reality this would be our pop hit."
"Even though the album ends before it reaches the 40 minute mark, it's quite an adventurous ride. One that often moves too fast to reveal all at first listen. But who would've expected that the album ends in an even darker manner than it started? 'Tear' is GOLD's version of a murder ballad in which Milena kills her temptations as a means to survive.”
Optimist is out on February 24, via Van records.