The sheer name of In the Valley Below brings thoughts of billowing clouds, rolling hills, and ironic banjo music present in the ever-increasing number of folk rock nostalgic acts which have saturated the music scene over the past few years. However, this is definitely not the case. The Belt, out on August 25th, is the first full-length release from this California two-piece band which has more in common with The Kills than it ever would with She & Him. Jeffrey Jacob and Angela Gail live and thrive in a world of the unexpected. After a fateful night at SXSW, the two found something of an electric chemistry that is further revealed in this impressive release. Drawing inspiration from religion, sex, and ambiguity, The Belt is a startling bit of pop indie fusion gold that failed to leave the comfort of my stereo for a solid week and is a release that blends genres throughout. Though their Facebook page classifies them as “Sex Wave” and “Dark Duet”, if you look toward acts like Phantogram and Haim while peppering in the sensibilities of David Lynch, you come out with a working understanding of their sound.
“Peaches” starts off with shades of Silversun Pickups style guitar and Lana Del Rey type vocals. What they build upon from there is surely one of the catchiest songs of the summer. It lays the groundwork for the sensuality found through the rest of the album. It is a guilty pleasure guaranteed to stay in your head long after it stops playing. This particular track has picked up substantial support on indie radio as well as has earned them a spot on The Late Show with David Letterman.
In the Valley Below bounce from catchy pop with songs like “Neverminders” and “Stand Up”, to more ambient tunes like “Hymnal” and “Take Me Back”, which are some of the best examples of the band’s vocal chemistry. One much appreciated aspect of The Belt is how it weaves in and out of influences and indie standards almost effortlessly without it seeming coerced. The band is able to create authentically relevant music that pushes the listener to dance, or at least sway, with reckless abandon.
While the sensual and eerie atmospheric music they create is their greatest strength, lyrics like “you couldn’t do the math and now I’m tripping off the slope” (“Last Soul”) are both clever and original. Their best lyrical moments sing as anthems to be pronounced from dark and dingy dancefloors. “If this is the end, lets start all over again” pleads the duo in what is my personal favorite track, “Dove Season”. In true David Lynchian fashion, they get existential in “Take Me Back” where they repeat the refrain “Take me back where I came from” amidst an electronic musical atmosphere. Though most of their lyrics range from the ambiguous to the highly cryptic (see “Searching for a Devil”), they never fail to pique your interest and draw you in.
As a first release, this is a phenomenal album that demands a listen, preferably under the cover of night. As they increase in popularity, this is the perfect time to get behind them in order to embarrass your hipster friends who will undoubtedly jump on their bandwagon later.