Gold Cage feel like they’ve come out of nowhere. It’s not completely true; the Californian trio formed more than two years ago and have played half the venues in Los Angeles since, but their debut album is a dazzling feat, arriving without much fanfare but deserving of acres of praise.

From the understated atmospherics of “Halcion,” past the peeled-back post-punk of “Introduce My Mind,” to the cautiously upbeat pulse of the otherwise terribly-titled “Harshmellow,” almost everything here feels like the work of an established act, not first-timers.

The production is warm, and the band confidently play with space and structure—nothing runs long, and some songs don’t seem to have verses or choruses at all, one careful crescendo or decaying loop instead.

Maybe dazzling is the wrong word, then. There is plenty of light shining through Social Crutch, but it’s most often in long, soft lines, hazy rays, and deep orange. It never glares. It brings to mind Mazzy Star and Slowdive, and, admittedly for someone who’s never been there to have the scene sullied by noise or smog or something gross washing up from the sea, sounds like a sunset over Santa Monica. The sun is baked in to Gold Cage’s sound.

For some, that might mean it comes across lazy, or too cool for school perhaps, but it’s all rendered so carefully, so effectively, that there’s no way it’s been created off the cuff or played for fashion points. The care and attention can be heard in neat but crackling beats, gently warped guitars, and the way “Introduce My Mind” showcases the mingling vocals of bassist Mony Katz and guitarist Cole Devine, both drenched in reverb, voices from a dream.

And while some of Social Crutch might sound meek or one-dimensional on the wrong day, the oscillating slow-burn of “Repeater Kember” will work any time, any place, whatever the weather.

Solid gold.

Purchase Social Crutch here.

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