It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that the chief songwriter of the Depreciation Guild is Kurt Feldman, one fourth of the Pains of Being Pure at Heart. Both bands play gorgeous, buzzy keyboard melodies, laid thick with candied synthesizers and guitars, and both owe a lot of their charm to cutesy, rosy-cheeked nostalgia. They write songs about youth with a certain unspoiled genuineness, even if it’s something as potentially cloying as a library love story or a nighttime fairy tale.
But that’s not to say that the Guild is derivative—at least in terms of modern 21st-century influence. In fact, the one thing that most sets the band apart from their similarly minded comrades is their allegiance to the ‘80s. While the Pains’s self-titled debut was a very fuzzy, very ‘90s, very Slumberland affair, the Guild’s latest effort, Spirit Youth, relies almost entirely on the retro-futuristic new-wave sounds that were popular 20 years ago. Highlights like “Crucify You” and “A Key Turns” sound like pop songs written specifically for a bygone era; but like M83’s last two albums, these songs can stand on their own as a natural evolution of the musical ideas they’re emulating. “Crucify You” muddies its vocals into a very modern-sounding blear. Spirit Youth might be a wistful record, but it’s never unimaginative.
The album certainly does wear its influences on its sleeve. It is the clear descendant of about three specific records in particular (Disintegration, Loveless, and Power, Corruption & Lies, for those of you keeping track), but it’s one of those rare albums that manages to borrow just enough from its well-treaded sources to avoid charges of outright theft. That isn’t to say that the band delivers anything truly new here, but they manage to present a paved-over musical tradition in a way we’re not quite used to hearing.