VHS by Castlebeat is a much more upbeat and dreamy addition to the artists’ typically dreary lofi sound. Expert, yet slight use of various effects and techniques make for a very ambient and catchy album meant for some heartwarming easy listening.
I particularly liked the multi-guitar track approach to Tennis. There’s about 4 bouncy riffs overlapping one another, but they all function very melodically and work extremely well with the time signature portrayed by simple and subtle drums. The vocals were silky smooth and oddly worked with the quick and springy flurry of guitar notes. Here was one my least favorite tracks and seemed like a low-effort throw-in on the project. The melody had definitely been used elsewhere, and the click track beat makes me suspect the artist just piled some reverb and cliche lyrics over one of his old demos.
This album is very true to the roots of dream pop and shoegaze. I find myself constantly connecting tracks to artists like The Cure and Current Joys. Although the lyrics are used more instrumentally rather than poetically, they give most of the songs a refreshing push and reinforce the flow and atmosphere tailored by Castlebeat and predeceding artists of the genre.
For me, this is more of a ‘pick your favorites’ project. It gets pretty repetitive and isn’t my favorite album to listen to start to finish. There’s only so much you can do with quick, flanged and plucky guitar riffs topped with droning, reverb-ridden lyrics and a distant, unchanging drum track. The songs start to very quickly sound the same, and that is because they all closely stick to the aforementioned formula. Personally, I enjoy when an album takes me on a journey. An album should tell a story and experiment with how to convey what the artist feels; contrarily, I don’t sense much of that going on in VHS. If there’s much of a story being told, the vocals are where it should be, considering the instruments sound about the same in each track. After taking a closer listen, I sadly found few lines of substance. Most of the lyrics were pretty cliche or so prolonged and drowned in reverb that I couldn’t decipher them. This leaves me at a crossroads concerning interpretation: Castlebeat is either A: Conveying an overall mood commonly expressed in the shoegaze genre through vocal sound rather than lyrical prowess and consideration, or B: trying to produce a “quantity over quality” project that requires less thought and emotion in favor of a formula-dependent process that yields catchy but indistinct content. With consideration for the state of the scene Castlebeat is appealing to, I’d assume case B is more likely at play. People listen to shoegaze and dream pop as an emotional aid in a majority of cases, which sometimes leads people to just assume there’s meaning behind an artists’ content despite its apparent lack of substance. Although VHS sounds dreamy and somewhat sad, I think the artist drew more from what was conveyed in other art rather than their own feelings or vision (which is what shoegaze is at its core).
Although it checks out musically, VHS just wasn’t there on an emotional or provocative level. Castlebeat didn’t do too much to try and step out of the box or his own comfort zone, and VHS just ended up sounding unoriginal and uninspired after a full listen. The tracks were fun and catchy, which is perfect for some passive listening, but wholistically sounded way too similar to each other and indicate that the album could use some shaving down for emphasis on substance. That’s what B-sides and Demo albums are for, right?