Sound: One would have to look very hard to find a review of "Idle Labor" in which Depeche Mode or New Order weren't at least mentioned in passing. From the first listen it can be seen this album has its roots firmly in British New Wave. This is an influence which Craft Spells acknowledge with the flowers on the cover looking eerily similar to those on New Order's "Power, Corruption And Lies". I think, however, it would be unfair to label Craft Spells as rip offs.
Justin Vallesteros has a very distinct voice and the music is dripping in reverb, like many other artists on independent labels at the moment. It does, sadly, however have the feel of a laptop record, in that quite often some of the instruments remain indistinct, which is smudged further by the reverb effects. The music does also contain Shoegaze elements, in which chord structures are repeated and the electric drum kit driving forward the repeated, rhythmic bass. The album is crammed with catchy pop hooks that would go down very well at a party and is guaranteed to coax a smile from those who have previously enjoyed New Wave music. // 8
Lyrics: Justin Vallesteros' voice is soft and deep and matches the music very well. He croons songs about love, with some very sincere and cute lyrics. This is seen perfectly on the eminently re-playable "Scandinavian Crush", "If not tomorrow, when will it be? When can I see you please?". This seems to encapsulate enthusiastic, early teen romance. This may grate and irritate some, but those who want to look back fondly on their early relationships will find this a fitting companion listen.
However, with many bands that record Shoegaze music, especially on laptops, the comprehensibility of the lyrics are compromised. With out audible lyrical phrases the verses tend to repeat, something which could be altered by remastering of the levels.
The album's highlight, "After The Moment", contains some of the lyrics which will set you up with what to expect on the record, "It's the kiss and the touch that makes me want you more than love" will endear and infuriate listeners equally. Calling the lyrics overly sentimental and naive would be a valid criticism, but to me, it is honest and endearing. This is music to re-imagine your first kiss to. // 7
Overall Impression: I can easily see this record dividing its listeners. For those who disliked 80s keyboard pop and spent their teenage years dodging sunlight, this record is not intended for you. However, if you want to hear a slightly-indulgent, cute pop album, you could do a lot worse. I thoroughly enjoyed this album, whose cohesiveness and catchy phrases make it easy to re-listen to. For fans of early Depeche Mode, this is a must-hear. At just under 40 minutes, it doesn't overstay its welcome and will leave you smiling in reflection of long summer evenings and shy hand-in-hand moments. I am excited to hear what Craft Spells do next. // 9