The Slideshow Effect is the long-gestating girl-boy duo Memoryhouse’s much-anticipated full-length debut. Their first official release, The Years EP, dove head-first into full-fledged nostalgia complete with lush organs, low melancholic vocals, and reverb-drenched drum machines. However, The Slideshow Effect seems to be a bit of a musical sidestep for Memoryhouse . Actually, a musical step backward.
The first suspicious activity from the band was when they released a remastered version of The Years EP when they got signed to Sub Pop Records. Not only did the new version receive a pretty dramatic increase in fidelity, the facelift included more traditional instrumentation and interest in cleaner production values. Those who were originally impressed with the EP felt a little weird about the update.
However, now that we have The Slideshow Effect, the band has made a definitive step toward a more mainstream soft rock/pop sound and the remastered EP was merely a stepping stone toward The Slideshow Effect. The band has jokingly called their new direction “Taylor Swift with Built To Spill as her backing band.” Although that’s not at all what The Slideshow Effect sounds like, why anyone would even kid about wanting to sound like that is beyond me. Gone are the atmospheric soundscapes and the dream-inducing reverb; all the instruments including acoustic guitars, keyboards, and drums are crisp and in-your-face — including lead singer cautious Denise Nouvion’s vocals.
The opening track “Little Expressionless Animals” is one of the most promising on the album, opening with Nouvion singing in front of a choir of herself and a lo-fi drum beat. The next song, “The Kids Were Wrong” is one of the few upbeat songs on the album and in fact, if you can get passed the boring vocal deliveries, there’s a lot of creativity and interesting sounds in the first two tracks off of The Slideshow Effect. Unfortunately, most of the rest of the album just doesn’t do enough to get over Nouvion’s nonchalant singing style. The main problem is that the lead singer Denise Nouvion ends up sounding pretty flat and uninterested throughout most of the album. In The Years EP, Nouvion’s sedated vocal deliveries evoked a special kind of watery nostalgia amidst the heavy reverb and stiff drum machines that really worked emotionally. Here, though, Nouvion seems uncomfortable with the new sense of transparency and intimacy. Her melodies sound tired and her deliveries sound rushed. It’s not that there’s anything necessarily way wrong with The Slideshow Effect — perhaps Memoryhouse is just not the chillwave dream duo we all thought they were.