Live: Craft Spells @ Boot & Saddle, Philadelphia, 12/03/2015


BRAINCHILD of California native Justin Paul Vallesteros, Craft Spells has mounted an extensive tour to celebrate the release of their second studio album Nausea, and I was fortunate enough to catch them in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.

With Lo-Fi synth and guitar layering, Craft Spells is reminiscent of label-mates Wild Nothing and Beach Fossils. Their sound elicits a calming, homey feeling; like you’re back in your childhood. Vallesteros’ first effort, Idle Labor (2011), was in fact recorded in his childhood bedroom as he began experimenting toward the end of 2009.

This effect was not lost on me at the show. It certainly helped that Boot & Saddle is a small, intimate venue, but Craft Spells did everything right to invoke their signature sound. At times the music overwhelmed the vocals, but even this complimented the overall performance by amplifying the disembodied effect Vallesteros projects.

Lyrically, Nausea feels like it’s stuck back in 2011 with Idle Labor. This could come off as a negative, but once again I’d say it plays to the charm of Craft Spells. Their lyrics aren’t overly introspective or meaningful, and that’s 100% fine. Craft Spells seeks to bring their audience a sense of nostalgia – this sentiment is felt and heard in each of their songs, live and otherwise, and is most perfectly achieved in highlight-tracks, Nausea’, Scandinavian Crush’, Party Talk’, and the ever-brilliant After the Moment.

Allow me to wax poetic on this exceptional track. ‘After the Moment’ is one of the best things I’ve heard, purely for the sake of nostalgia. The ebullient pairing of music and lyrics perfectly capture the next-day celebration of a night of revelry. This was, of course, the best segment of the performance. Overall, Craft Spells was a joy to see live, and while Nausea doesn’t progress much if at all from Idle Labor, it succeeds in establishing that much-sought-after nostalgia.

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