TRACK REVIEW: Laser Background - Jawbreaker 7"

Laura Kerry

At first glance, Laser Background, a.k.a. Andy Molholt of Philadelphia, is all softhearted earnestness. “Everything about this was made by hand,” he says of his new 7” release, a clear disc hand-cut in Tuscon that sports a screen print by a friend based on a blind contour drawing by the artist himself—a striking package for Molholt’s striking new single, “Jawbreaker.” Describing that song, he tells of a roommate’s toxic relationship, writing, “This song is a shattering call to free yourself from the toxic boundaries that we create for ourselves. Life is too short! Don't waste it.” The lyrics reflect that directness, starting with the first line, “I can’t tell you how much I feel that you are sleeping with the enemy.”

But none of that will prepare you for the actual song. “Jawbreaker,” contrary to the conditions of its making, is a dreamy haze of psychedelic synth washes and muted drums. Everything is soaked in reverb, which creates the feeling of moving lightly but slowly underwater. Distanced by this effect, the vocals favor feeling over their heartsick meaning, fading into a march of simple but mesmerizing melodies.

Underneath the saturated sound, though, it’s possible to detect the sentiments behind “Jawbreaker.” Like Beach House, with whom he shares some sonic characteristics here—the slow, subdued drums, the bright organ synth—Laser Background moves the listener by suggestion, imbuing his sparkling sounds with an almost-unnoticeable edge of sadness. By the end, the sad reverie of “Jawbreaker” leaves the listener emptier than when she began, eager to play the song again or wait impatiently for the rest of the album to come out this spring.