There’s no rule that band names need reflect the sound of the music they signify. But somehow “Cryptacize" seems like a particularly ill-fitting moniker for the sparse pop made by Chris Cohen (ex-Deerhoof/Curtains), Nedelle Torrisi, and Michael Carreira. This is not a dark or moody record that exhumes sepulchral atmospheres from metaphorical crypts. Nedelle’s piercingly clear voice occasionally lapses into a wistful ennui but always snaps back into resilient optimism. (Remember: only one degree of separation from Deerhoof’s child-like wonderment.) And there certainly isn’t anything cryptic about the music, nothing difficult to wrap your mind around.
Instead, the trio traffics in a deeply melodic but underfed indie pop that relies heavily on Cohen’s tasteful, garage-y guitar and Torrisi’s lovely but icily unaffecting voice. Carreira — who was brought into the fold after Cohen and Torrisi saw him playing cowbell on a YouTube video — is nowhere to be found on many songs and under-utilized elsewhere. In short, his contribution — like his membership in Cryptacize — sounds like an afterthought.
It’s a frustrating formula, because although there are constant glimmers of a wonderful debut throughout, that promise never quite materializes. And in that sense, the album’s title fits perfectly: There may be treasures here, but we’ll have to do some digging or, at the very least, some patient listening. The melodies are so under-arranged that they require some imagination to hear what’s so precious about these tunes.
Yes, there are some lovely songs here. “No Coins” and “Cosmic Sing-a-long” are full of lilting melody and bubbly guitar work, calling to mind the Curtain’s most recent album, Calamity (2006, Asthmatic Kitty). But like that album, Dig That Treasure remains tempered and tethered to a fault. The music regularly suggests climax or giddy abandon but shies away from any instrumental eruptions or frantic releases, opting instead to wallow in a blasé and gutless purgatory. In the end, there’s simply no adventure in songs that walk up to the edge, consider what it would mean to take another step, and safely back away.