Review: Spiritual Mansions’ “Touched”

Scene newcomers impress with their debut LP.

PHOTO COURTESY AFTERNOON RECORDS

Ashley Goetz

PHOTO COURTESY AFTERNOON RECORDS

Spiritual Mansions ALBUM: âÄúTouchedâÄù LABEL: Afternoon Records If post-punk is grad studentsâÄô answer to what they consider a pedestrian genre, then what is post-emo? Moreover, what does a post-emo band sound like? There are no tangible answers to those questions, but a shining example of what such a band might sound like is Spiritual Mansions. Borrowing heavily from âÄô60s pop rock, soul music, Vegas lounge acts and grounded in a punk aesthetic, thereâÄôs few sonic similarities between Spiritual Mansions and the My Chemical Romances of the world. But when it comes to songs about girls, theyâÄôre practically next of kin âÄî and it works. MinneapolisâÄô own Spiritual Mansions formed in the spring of 2006 and released their critically lauded debut EP âÄúGive Us Your HeartsâÄù the following year. Currently, theyâÄôre signed on to local powerhouse label Afternoon Records and their proper full-length release âÄúTouchedâÄù was debuted this past Saturday at The Turf Club. With expectations justifiably high, Spiritual Mansions did not disappoint. âÄúTouchedâÄù opens with a retro vibe on the poppy âÄúSmart Hurts.âÄù As the bass lopes, electric keys bleep and electric guitars politely riff, two things become abundantly clear about Spiritual Mansions. Firstly, for being on a label whose collective favorite band is assuredly Animal Collective, Spiritual Mansions have a lot more in common with hipster pre-hippie bands like The Zombies. Secondly, frontman Ryan Harris is a vocal force. HarrisâÄô smooth croon will be either loved or hated (depending on the listener), but his distinctive voice channels both Randy Newman and Nick Cave âÄî and charms in doing so. Other standouts include the bouncy, harmonized and brassy âÄúThe Sweeter Side,âÄù the painfully emotive piano ballad âÄúWhat I Miss the Most,âÄù and the joyful Beach Boys inspired psychedelics of the discâÄôs closer, âÄúThree Day Weekend.âÄù There are some weaker moments, though. Songs such as âÄúLady CascadeâÄù and âÄúJennyâÄù find the band treading water and the lack of dynamics do them a disservice. âÄúTouchedâÄù is a strong debut from a weird but impressively polished young group. The cathartic quality of the earnestly girl-centric songwriting, the unclassifiable nature of the arrangements and the undeniable pop sensibilities of the record are all enviable weapons that Spiritual Mansions have at their disposal. Having penned such a wholly listenable record this soon in a career sets the bar for follow-ups understandably high, but Spiritual Mansions lend no evidence that theyâÄôll do anything but impress. (Four of five stars)