Published Feb 26, 2020Safe Sins, the debut from Philadelphia's Gladie, might have been on the radar for anyone who mourned the breakup of Cayetana, lead singer Augusta Koch's likeable former band, which called it quits in 2019. Less spiky and more jangly, this debut doesn't quite grab in the same way Cayetana did, but Safe Sins is nonetheless a solid first album, and the combination of Koch's recognizable vocal delivery against a fresh backdrop (thanks most notably to main collaborator Matt Schimelfenig) is certainly interesting.
It's clear from the beatless opening track, full of hazy synths, that we're on different ground here, and there's no shortage of electronic flourishes on Safe Sins (a tasteful pad here, a playful bit of drum programming there), although they by no means dominate. These and other contributions from Schimelfenig (who produced as well) lend things an understated sophistication that belies what, at first, may seem like a fairly straightforward indie rock album.
His synth work and subtly elastic guitar leads on quiet mid-album gem "Even at Your Easel" are a fine example. Lyrically, much of the album deals with grief, moving forward and letting yourself find happiness, even if for some reason you feel you don't deserve it. It all feels deeply personal, and Koch renders her thoughts with the intelligence and depth of feeling that proved such a strong element of Cayetana's music.
That said, the crackling energy of her previous work does seem to have been siphoned off somewhat, and there's a lack of rhythmic dynamism here as well; tracks unfold smoothly and professionally, but not always excitingly. While these issues aren't deal-breakers, it does mean that whether or not you're already a fan of Koch's work will likely play a large role in how much Safe Sins distinguishes itself from the rest of your indie rock playlist. What's definitely clear however is the fruitful relationship between Koch and Schimelfenig, which lays an undoubtedly strong foundation. (Lame-O Records)