Album Review: The Pastels – Slow Summits




It’s a slow climb to the top, and The Pastels know that. Gradually perfecting their gloom-pop since the early ’80s, the Glasgow outfit helped catapult fellow Scottish bands like The Jesus and Mary Chain and The Vaselines, but never claimed their own stake in the mainstream. Even despite the fact that they’ve been creating nostalgia-driven pop for years, making them an evident precursor to today’s trend of self-deprecating indie pop — at least as much as Morrissey was.

What’s more, the poignant Pastels experienced high turnover from their band members dabbling in ambitions elsewhere. The band hopped from label to label – My Bloody Valentine’s Creation included — before finding their footing with 1995’s Mobile Safari. Today’s Slow Summits is the group’s first release in 15 years, featuring unhurried builds and baritone vocals that border on morose.

Like their previous work, Slow Summits is a pure and lovely listen. But the true complexities emerge as the tracks unfold with further listens, and you notice how flutes burst from unnoticed corners and melodies build into sumptuous peaks. The album’s opener “Secret Music” burns and fades slowly, as if MBV’s Bilinda Butcher shed the reverb and sang in a wistful drawl. The gorgeous “Summer Rain” assembles gradually, humming with a bravado that features a dry spot of warmth in an otherwise torrential downpour.

Slow Summits sees the band producing less shadowy than their peers and fellow Scotsmen Belle & Sebastian. With plucky string arrangements, an emotive horn section, and vocals that simultaneously brood and breathe life, Slow Summits’ beautiful sound borders on enlightening.

Essential Tracks: “Slow Summits”, “Summer Rain”, and “Secret Music”