Should is a dream pop/shoegaze band from Baltimore. They’re probably one of the smartest bands in the business. Marc Ostermeier is a professor of biomolecular engineering at Johns Hopkins University. Tanya Maus is a professor of history (specifically East Asian history) at Wittenberg University. She teaches a class for first semester students called “Murder She Wrote: Female Detective Fiction and Social Consciousness in Japan”. The students have to take a current social issue in Japan and develop a murder mystery around that issue. Part of the assignment is that they have to create a prospectus with a 20-30 page story as if they were submitting it for publication. THEN, they have to perform it as a radio play or as a piece of dinner theater. And this is for kids in their very first semester of college. It sounds like small liberal arts college has gotten a lot harder since I graduated from a small liberal arts college in the early 1990s.
The band got their start in Austin in the mid-1990s, while Ostermeier and Maus were both at the University of Texas. He was getting his PhD, while she was earning her BA. They started just as American shoegaze was beginning to really take off. Their 1995 EP A Folding Sieve was a towering debut, but it got poor distribution, and they didn’t like touring, so the band never really took off like they should have. Between then and now, the EP has been reissued once by Words on Music and once (with lots of extra tracks) by Captured Tracks. They put out a couple of 7″ records and an album in 1998 before taking a 13-year break. In 2011, they released another album. Then, just last week, they released this brand new album.
Should is a band that I had heard of, and I knew that I was supposed to like them, but I had not actually heard them until I got something in the mail bag about this new album. Over the years, they’ve constantly shifted their sound some, but no matter what, they’ve always been mentioned in the same breath as bands like Slowdive and Galaxie 500.
Anyway, here’s one of my favorites from the new album:
“Dalliance” by Should
I must admit that when I saw the song title, I sort of hoped that it was a cover of the brilliant song of same name by The Wedding Present. It isn’t that, but it’s a marvelous song.
Everyone knows I’m a sucker for a soft, warm, gooey co-ed vocal harmony. The kind that melts in your ear but not in your hand. As it turns out, that’s right in Should’s wheelhouse. That’s the bit that makes people think of Slowdive. This song isn’t particularly Slowdive-y, but the way Ostermeier and Maus harmonize is really reminiscent of Halstead and Goswell. On that note, as an aside, the next song on the album, “A Lonely Place” reminds me a LOT of the Mojave 3 song “Candle Song 3”.
This song, the more I listen to it, reminds me of the criminally underappreciated Atlanta shoegaze/krautrock band from the late 1990s Seely. Just a bit fuzzy. Just a tiny bit murky. Warm. Big, deep hooks. And above all, those incredible harmonies.
In case you want to read some of the murder mysteries that Maus’ students have written, here’s a compilation.