Accompanying all of SALES’ releases, stretching back to their first single in 2013, are colorful squares of art made by Alana Questell, each one featuring a collage in the center made of a combination of human and natural forms that coalesce a bright object reminiscent of a tropical fruit basket. Though different, they all share a basic vocabulary located somewhere between the sunny accessibility of pop art and the weirdo dream world of surrealism.
After three years of this, the artwork on the band’s debut self-titled LP feels almost as essential to their identity as their sound, which fits the imagery well. The collage form is a perfect trope for an album that is stitched together from different parts—the bright indie-rock guitar, twitchy electronic percussion loops, and warm, melodic vocals—to create pop music that is both hospitable and a little weird.
Like the images, each song is naturalistic and small in its constituent parts, but taken together, those parts make up something entirely different. SALES is just two people—Orlando-based Lauren Morgan and Jordan Shih—who embrace a DIY ethic by doing everything on the album, from start to finish. This is apparent in the minimalism of the lyrics, which are short and impressionistic, and the compositions, which are made up of repeating structures of three or so voices from real instruments and software. It is masked, however, by the way those lyrics and voices fit together. I’m reminded of fellow minimalists The xx, who share some sounds and effects with SALES. Though they diverge in general tone, they excel in creating fullness in the space between different lines.
On “Ivy,” a highlight of this album and one of my favorites of any record from the past few months, clear guitar plays in a picking pattern over a crackly drum loop before pulsing bass and a string line come in, creating a full, undulating sound to dance against the rising and falling vocal melody. Sometimes the guitar part follows behind Morgan’s voice, and sometimes it joins up for a moment before diverging—most notably while she sings the line, “The distance between us / The size of a planet”—pulling the listener in with the playful shifting of dynamics.
Like “Ivy,” most songs, even the sweetest and most intimate on the album, have some kind of playful streak. Sometimes it's subtle, while at other points it's downright silly (see song titles like “pope is a rockstar,” “trapped in a club,” and “jamz”). As is apparent from the series of shout-outs in the final track, “best times,” SALES is a band that has fun making their art, and the result is a debut album that's fun to listen to. Like a brightly-colored collage or the best of bedroom pop, SALES' first LP is the exquisite fruit of a DIY labor.