pacificUV: Weekends
Mazarine Records

The last time we heard from pacificUV was in 2008 when the band released Longplay 2, a collection of wide-screen instrumentals, vocal tracks, and shoegaze-inflected songs. Some significant degree of re-invention has occured in the time between its release and that of its latest, Weekends, because the new one eschews long-form instrumentals altogether (but for three vignettes, appropriately titled “Friday Night Dream,” “Saturday Night Dream,” and “Sunday Night Dream”) and instead recasts pacificUV as something closer in spirit to an electropop song-oriented outfit. Though Weekend is structured as a concept album (the trials, tribulations, agony, and ecstasy that a disintegrating relationship brings into one's life), it's also leagues removed from prog.

At first, it appears that Weekends will conform to instrumental form in opening with a lovely, cello-enhanced overture (“Friday Night Dream”) but the expectation is quickly dashed when the luscious electropop of “Funny Girl” arrives. Brimming with swooning vocal melodies and pulsating synthesizers, the endearingly plaintive tune sounds in certain moments like New Order in a particularly carefree mood, even if the song's subject involves romantic uncertainty. Echoes of other artists emerge, too, though never in displeasing manner: “I'm Here (But It's Not Me)” might remind some listeners of Styrofoam's electropop, while “Ballerina” provides a Solvent-styled exercise in euphoria, with pacificUV even hauling out a vocoder for the song. The forlorn “Baby Blue” is a slow and tremulous, ‘50s-styled ballad of the haunting kind one associates with a teen idol such as Ricky Nelson—at least until the song is nearly buried under a barrage of guitar wail that moves the song closer to The Jesus and Mary Chain. The symphonic pop of “High” also reaches suitably epic heights during its three-minute reign.

There's a natural arc to the album that parallels the trajectory of the weekend itself and the obsessive musing upon the relationship that would occur during it. That the album ends with the resigned “Unplug Me” therefore makes some kind of perfect sense in light of that narrative concept. What recommends the album most, however, is pacificUV's songwriting talent and specifically its penchant for elevating its dreampop with ravishing melodic hooks. The blissed-out yearn and swoon of “Going Home,” for instance, will stay with you long after the album ends. Weekends registers as no failed attempt at crafting melodic electropop but rather a thoroughly convincing take on the genre. Heartbreak never sounded so good.

January 2012