November 15, 2013 / 11:54 am

Keep Shelley in Athens – At Home

3/7 stars

Fitting neatly in a musical genre as a group is perfectly fine. Giving listeners a point-of-reference in the musical past and present gives the group’s music context and aids the listener in understanding what the group is attempting to accomplish musically. However, differentiation from their peers is what makes the music exciting and fresh. Keep Shelly in Athens doesn’t seem content with this as their album reflects a band much more interested in staying safe and avoiding anything that could be minutely misconstrued as offensive.

At Home is a very okay chillwave/dream-pop record in every sense. There aren’t really any standout tracks, synths, hooks, melodies, or lyrics. If I were forced at gunpoint to actually sing a melody from this album, it’s quite possible I’d be a dead man. It’s probably only a 20% chance, but a chance nonetheless. A chance I wouldn’t have to take if I was forced to recite Braids or Beach House or many of their other peers. The majority of the album is covered in synth with vocals mixed to the back, hiding the fact that there really isn’t that much occurring in any given song. It obfuscates the lacking creativity.

But this Keep Shelly in Athens has not produced a bad album. Bland, but not bad. While the majority of the album is, indeed, forgettable, there are some moments in which the band shows that they have the general idea for making good songs. Generally, the more straightforward and pulsing the song is, the better the song is. “Knife” has the makings of a cool song, as does “Hover,” but their initially catchy beats are covered by more needless effects that bring little, if anything to the table.

The worst thing is that At Home has moments where Keep Shelly in Athens could show ambition and innovation, but they immediately go back to their formulaic chillwave roots instead. Few, if any, risks are taken. For example, in “Oostende,” there are a few notes which wouldn’t normally fit in the harmony but are awesome with the melody. However, they don’t do this much which leaves it as little more than an interesting, ear-catching anomaly.

Keep Shelly in Athens, on At Home, demonstrates that they probably can compose memorable tracks, but they simply aren’t. One can only hope that they produce a more enticing album next time or they might risk permanent obscurity.