It’s only January, so clearly it’s too early to be naming best new LPs, but I’d be surprised if this soon-to-be-released stunner, Count Yr Blessings, from Portland, Oregon’s Sister Palace doesn’t hit many a blogger’s radar. Count Yr Blessings is the follow up to their 2014 release, The Purple Tape. There’s so much to love about their sound, which alternates constantly, from easy rockin’ Pretty Girls Make Graves, to Slint-like wafting guitar corrosion with nuanced hints of Jane’s Nothing’s Shocking and Cymbals Eat Guitars’ penchant for challenging instrumental hybrid hothouse blooms. But don’t let that description color the entirety of the band, because in totality the music is unlike what you’re likely hear all year for other bands. It’s as if Sister Palace found in Count Yr Blessings a happy medium between the 10-and-a-half minute riff extravaganza of “The End of the World” and the gorgeously caustic garage-gunk guitar forays of “Hay Otros Mundos” (There Are Other Worlds).
At first, listening to The Purple Tapes, it will seem like the lead singer’s muted vocals are drown out by all the fireworks. But the band finds better ways to accentuate her gifts on Count Yr Blessings — first by adding gain on the blinding opener, “Blanket”, and then by playing softly, rising around her pretty voice instead of trying to play over it. “Corporeality” is the first track that sounds like Slint’s Spiderland — opening with ominous interlaced guitar rhythms that work perfectly in conjunction with the singer’s voice, mimicking her vocal melodies like a shadow, before the song’s dynamic shifts of style, from anthem rock to spacious improvisation and fertile punk. The thundering and fevered “In My House” is an abrupt, unorthodox piece that calls to mind those great anarcho-canines, Dog Faced Hermans on a song like “How We Connect”. The results of Sister Palace’s fine-tuning pay off, the songs full of searing emotional intensity, like the red-glowing embers of a wood fire.
The tracks in the middle of the record are the real tour de force. Songs four through six feel like a suite, connected to each other through a fluidity of style that’s real distinction is that no one song limits itself to one genre for long. The eerie “Sister Vincent” is a psych-guitar gem, haunting vocals giving way to beautifully unraveling guitar phrases and creamy distortion. It’s remarkable. “C.F.P.” (Cosmic Forest Party) opens as an alarm-blaring mind rattler, tortured feedback, abrasive guitar and hammered drums give way to meditative vocals, before making a merciless full circle back to the original chaos. Sister Palace moves effortlessly between volcanic instrumental outbursts, drifting moods and deft musical transitions. “Fuck the Nation” is the pummeling centerpiece, combining air-raid siren guitar serenades with a twee hook: “Brokenhearted / Fuck the nation / I know who you are”. The songs are so impressive, that the album closer, a cover of the Cranberries’ “Dreams” feels a touch weak compared to the band’s own ambitious creations. But this is an album to be reckoned with.
Sister Palace is Alex Hebler, Mac Pogue, Chetty Garcia and Dan Byers. Follow the band at bandcamp and tumblr. You can pre-order a Count Yr Blessings cassette at the band’s bandcamp page, with the shipping date somewhere around January 20th. — David D. Robbins Jr.