Unicorns at Heart
Today, we’re thrilled to premiere Aurora, the new album on Z Tapes from lo-fi rockers Unicorns at Heart.
Our own introduction to California’s Unicorns at Heart was with the 2019 single “Yr Mind”, which finds itself on Aurora among nine other tracks, approximately half previous singles and compilation tracks and half brand new material. “Yr Mind” strikes as a tight, concentrated, singularly-focused march of noise rock reminiscent of Bakesale-era Sebadoh, but while a similar lo-fi aesthetic is found throughout much of the album, Aurora, finally unlocked from the vault more than year after completion, proves ultimately more eclectic than first anticipated, and a more fascinating listen for it.
Take opener “Any Day”, which immediately caught us off guard with its charming ramshackle breeziness that melds loose, shuffling acoustic guitar with a vocal smoothness and polish akin to contemporary R&B, all while sounding as though it were recorded on a boombox. “Nothing” and “Private Reserve” are probably the most “pop” tracks on Aurora along with “Yr Mind”, though all three take on distinct attitudes from each other: “Yr Mind”, while determined, also carries with it a weary and downtrodden disposition. Conversely, “Nothing” rides a bouncy yet quietly sad melody with a lyric that points to the narrator embracing resignation and nihilism to cope with pain and disappointment, whereas “Private Reserve” contains a spastic, excitable energy which propels it forth.
Elsewhere, however, is where Aurora‘s more strange tendencies shine through. “Good Smoke”‘s drifting haziness is accentuated by warped synthesizers that dangle the listener over the precipice of of a psychedelic abyss. Taking into account tracks such as these as well as the infectious melodies of songs such as “Nothing”, the closest analogue to Unicorns at Heart becomes clearer: The Olivia Tremor Control. At times, Aurora really does come across as something a fuzzier, more compact take on Dusk at Cubist Castle, which we mean in the most flattering of ways. The album’s greatest highlight is “February Sky”, a fragile ballad in the truest sense of the word: the strings sound as though they’re on the brink of snapping right off of the guitar, piercing through the soft, melancholic atmosphere.
Aurora is strikingly beautiful, colorful, and layered for a modern indie rock record. The rollout might have been a long time coming, but it was worth the wait as Unicorns at Heart further establish themselves as rare, special creatures within the scene they occupy.
You can stream Unicorns at Heart’s Aurora below:
Favorite tracks: “Any Day”, “February Sky”
Rating: Strongly Recommended
Unicorns at Heart’s ‘Aurora’ is out tomorrow, August 3rd, on digital and cassette via Z Tapes and is available to pre-order here now. Be sure to go to the band’s linktree to find them on social media and check out their other work.