Personnel: Justin Vallesteros (vocals, guitar, piano); Javier Suarez (vocals, guitar); Andrew Joslyn (violin, viola); Andy Lum (drums, percussion).
Audio Mixers: Justin Vallesteros; Dylan Wall.
Recording information: Contact Create, Sonohomish, WA (2014); Crackle And Pop, Seattle, WA (2014); Soundhouse, Seattle, WA (2014).
Arranger: Justin Vallesteros.
Listening to Craft Spells' second album, Nausea, is like settling back into a warm bath, filled with relaxing smells and lots of therapeutic bubbles. Justin Paul Vallesteros already showed with the previous two Spells releases, Idle Labor in 2012 and Gallery in 2013, that he had a way with a new wave-y pop hook and could construct impressive walls of icy sound. Here he melts the walls to reveal a peacefully warm heart full of sunny melodies, bouncy pianos, swelling violins, and expansive vocal harmonies. The album is bathed in reverb, pitched somewhere on the edge of sleeping and dreaming, and never raises a drop of sweat on Vallesteros, his collaborators, or the listener. Anyone looking for music with an edge, or songs that will get the pulse racing, should look elsewhere for sure. Nausea is a slow float down a gentle stream, and Vallesteros constructs the sound like he's tucking the listener in for a nice long nap. It flows from one beautiful, unassuming (yet full of tender hooks) song to the next, all of them midtempo and dreamy except for the calmly rocking "Twirl" and "Breaking the Angle Against the Tide," which provide a little bit of spiky contrast. Even those two songs have enough atmosphere, and sweetly sawing violins, to keep the energy level firmly stuck on soothing. On the album-ending instrumental "Still Fields (October 10, 1987)," it even downshifts to meditative in an almost new age-y way. It's not a total shock that Craft Spells have become quite so smoothed-out and soft; there were hints on the Gallery EP, but the graceful way they've slipped into their new sound is impressive and very enjoyable. It's not the kind of album you'd play at a party or on a road trip -- unless you want to find yourself sleeping on the side of the road -- but it is perfect for lazy summer afternoons, cozy winter nights, or anytime you might want some music that's blissfully peaceful and sweet, but never boring. ~ Tim Sendra