It might not be a new Frank Ocean album, but the wait is finally over, and Shampoo’s debut LP is just as jaw-droppingly luxurious as everyone (read: me) expected. The 10-track record is a showcase of sensitive and sexy music that transports the listener to a twilight dance floor. It’s easy to think of day-glo hooks and vintage beats when considering the trio’s aesthetic, but Terrible Heat almost feels like an exhibition of the more delicate, under-appreciated elements of the band, especially Catherine Quesenberry’s celestial vocals and subtle synth work.
After making waves with 2014’s comparatively lo-fi Demos EP, the group goes all in on high-gloss production for their debut LP, making a record which stands comfortably alongside late ’80s radio pop. The band brings a simpler sound to their live performances, mostly due to the constraints that come from being a three-piece, but the result is more immediate than the studio versions presented here. “Texaco,” one of the trio’s most provocative anthems, almost feels like a different song on Terrible Heat. The bass grooves and screaming guitar that make the song so cathartic live have been ensconced in velvety atmospherics which unveil the track’s satin alter-ego. It might be frustrating or at least confusing initially, but after repeat listens it becomes apparent there are no extraneous sounds here, simply more of the dreamy facets of their music often buried during live performances.
Since Terrible Heat was a such long time coming, there’s a mix of new and old material on the album, but it all flows together better than one might expect, especially considering how much the trio’s songwriting has developed in the past two years. Older tracks like “High School,” which are most reliant on Rush Myers’ shimmery guitar work, are still the foundation of Shampoo’s sound, but Quesenberry’s synth experimentation takes the lead more often than expected.
The lyrics are mostly temporal, but Myers and Quesenberry deliver every line with a lively transcendence which balances the often melancholy nature of Shampoo’s songs. The emotional presence beneath every gloomy phrase makes the album glow like a mysterious makeout session. Unlike the ’80s pop which Shampoo often recalls, there’s no throwaway lyrics either, even though the vocals are never too conspicuous.
Overall, Terrible Heat is proof that Shampoo is more than the sum of their parts, fully capable of continuing their evolution into a full-fledged pop band without over-referencing past eras or becoming reliant on simpering smoothness. Beneath the pastel hues, Terrible Heat bursts with an energy guaranteed to make you sweat.
Terrible Heat is out tomorrow on cassette and digital via Bear Kids Recordings.
Shampoo will celebrate the release of Terrible Heat tonight at the Mammal Gallery. Supporting them will be Erica Eso and Red Sea. Doors open at 9 p.m. Admission is $5.