HTRK mint their N&J Blueberries label with a startling fifth studio album, finding the duo stripped to a quietly cathartic quintessence of heartbreaking vocals and spectral webs of guitar in a modern, classic and wholly inimitable style. Recorded in their native Dandenong Ranges, Australia, during April-May 2021, Rhinestones contains some of HTRK's most aching/gratifying songwriting secreted in subtly plangent sheets of dubbed guitar, synth pads and ember crackling 808s. It's an album that seems to have been precision-tooled for tortured romantics and atomized souls, reverberating with a gentle pathos and unfurling at an effortless pace that's practically therapeutic. Distilling their form of lowkey emotional manipulations to a fine art, the metaphysical soul of their songcraft somehow bleeds out more clearly than ever, infusing every song from the heartbreak pucker of "Kiss Kiss and Rhinestones" to the intoxicating, spirit-catcher sway of "Gilbert and George" with the tumescent glow of MDMA-tingled flesh and the uncanniest air of déjà vu. All nine songs land like a salve to the senses with a micro-dosed sensitivity that reveals every shimmering string, pad and echoic snare contrail like a halo around Jonnine's incredible vocals, which regale tales of love and the mysteries of the night with an observant, diaristic directness that has an unshakeable emotive clout. In key with the times, the songs feel like the soundtrack to emptied cities, casting gothic shadows in the spellbinding reverbs of "Valentina" and mottled beauty of "Siren Song", with the fragged ketrock of "Fast Friend" imagining a séance with Prince and Anna Domino, while Conrad Standish (CS + Kreme) lends bass guitar gilding to the saloon sashay of "Real Headfuck", and "Straight To Hell" basks in a transition between the golden and crepuscular hours. Oh -- and "Sunlight Feels like Bee Stings" -- what a title?! Put plainly, no other band do it quite like HTRK, and Rhinestones feels like their purest iteration, conjured in a mist of feeling, love and inebriation. Mixed by Nigel Yang. Design by Jonnine Standish.
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