You know that dream you have when you’re falling? The scenes and situations inside of your head may vary, but the feeling is always the same: peace, blissful calm, and then a sharp jolt that wakes you abruptly, gripping the sides of your bed. You don’t even have to go to sleep, because “Passage,” the opening track of Exitmusic’s debut LP of the same name, will give you that same gut reaction, that same chilling response. But it’s just as beautiful as it is haunting.
The same can be said for all of the ten tracks on Passage. Although they’ve been releasing music as Exitmusic for a while now, Aleksa Palladino and Devon Church have seriously raised the bar with their first full-length release. Each song on Passage is more lush, more sweeping, more emotional than the last; the album feels like the soundtrack to a yet-to-be-created movie epic. This is fitting, of course, because you probably already know Aleksa for her work as an actress (Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, Boardwalk Empire.) Like any great Hollywood story, Palladino’s and Church’s is a love story. As far more than band mates, their relationship seems to be crucial to understanding the music that they make together. Apparently, they met as teenagers on a train, got married overlooking the legendary Mulholland Drive, and have lived happily together making music ever since. These details could be fact or fiction; it doesn’t really matter, because their music will make you swoon either way.
Passage will draw some inevitable comparisons, like Radiohead, most definitely– the first thing that popped into my mind was “Exit Music (For a Film)”, although I’m not sure if that’s just a coinky-dink. You’ll also think Sigur Rós and another male-female duo, Beach House. But what Exitmusic have created, like the relationship they share, is uniquely their own. The album is filled with gorgeously spooky melodies, elegant arrangements, and sharp, giant hooks that will sweep you off your feet. Palladino’s emotive, versatile voice is gender ambiguous at times, and she’s half Bjork-ian, half Thom Yorke-ian. Whether she’s screeching or delicately chanting a few “oh-oh’s”, it totally works with the atmospheric rises and falls of the music. It’s hard to find a bad track, but the best ones (in addition to “Passage”) are “The Night,” “The Modern Age,” and “Storms.”
If there is any negative criticism to be had, it’s that Exitmusic have never heard that variety is the spice of life; each song has the same darkly cool, mysterious vibe. But that’s only if I had to find something negative– it’s not an easy task with Passage. Look forward to more from Exitmusic, who are surely crafting an even more beautiful story for the future.
4.5 / 5/