REVIEW: Beliefs - Habitat

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Kelly Kirwan

Jesse Crowe and Josh Korody have created a parallel dimension—one that resurrects the heyday of '90s rock bands that fell under the post-punk umbrella. It’s a world that isn’t starkly different from the one we live in, but has a flair from two decades past, as if they had bottled it up and set it free to float around in the present. The Toronto-based duo, known by their musical moniker Beliefs, certainly have their own style, but it—and the coming together of the two in the first place—was certainly sparked by an appreciation for acts like The Jesus and Mary Chain and Slowdive. Now, on their freshly-minted album Habitat, a nod to that era stands with their single, "1994," and its accompanying video.

The song features Jesse Crowe’s steadfast, even-toned vocals, lulling you into a somewhat eerie trance. It’s by no means a flimsy voice, but it has a certain ethereal nature to it, like a sort of preternatural croon. Crowe is featured in the foreground throughout the song's music video, as Korody plays guitar a few feet farther away from the camera, a dark blue screen as their backdrop. The film flickers and cuts into tiny, pixelated streaks of distortion, reminiscent of a VHS tape getting its reels caught in the gears of the VCR. "1994" is a groovy, moody wash of melody cascading over surreal undertones, and the two of them bop to the beat as Crowe offers tiny dance movements with gloved hands. Even in these seemingly innocuous movements, they imbue it with an uncanny feeling of the in-between space they inhabit.

Later in the album, "Half Empty" opens with a strong, percussive pattering of drums and a clash of cymbals, reminiscent of jazz openings or a trip-hop beat. “Don’t know how to tell you / But I just can’t keep my mouth shut,” Crowe sings, her voice twisting into higher octaves, once again commanding the room with her every utterance. Guitar lines are warped as they unfold across the melody, intermingling with the darker palette of electronica with which Beliefs seem to enjoy experimenting. In fact, throughout Habitat's 11 tracks, there's a noticeable trend of pared down guitars making room for a new electronic leaning, possibly nodding to Korody’s other musical pursuits where modular synths increasingly abound.

On "All Things Considered," the duo make good use of contrast. Fuzz and feedback open up the track, paired with vocals that are slower, more languid, and backed by a foreboding setting. But then it picks up the pace in the chorus as the beat becomes danceable and light on its feet. Moving back into the verse feels like switching the TV channel to a snowy wall of white noise.

With moves like these, Habitat is an album that’s hard to ignore. It's a compilation that leaves the world a little tilted—and for that, it’s an addicting terrain to explore.