Cellar Doors: Album Review

Hailing from San Francisco, Cellar Doors are certainly not your usual West Coast band. Formed in 2010, the trio of Sean Fitzsimmons (Vocals, Guitar, Bass) Jason Witz (Bass, Guitar, Vocals), and Miro Rogulj (Percussion, Vocals) released their debut EP The Melody Haunts My Reverie in September of 2011. Since then, the band have has shared the stage with the likes of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Night Beats, Allah-Las, Gringo Star, Toy and have been known to back local legend Cyril Jordan of The Flamin’ Groovies on occasion.

Releasing their self titled long player on Friday February 15th  on Spiritual Pajamas, Cellar Doors don’t dwell in psychedelic, Haight Ashbury nostalgia. Instead forging a sound that opens a door to a dark post-modernist world of brutalism architecture and rain drenched asphalt. 

Recorded at Coyote Hearing Studios in Oakland, California, with production and engineering by Jeremy Black, Cellar Doors is a taught record that acts like a soundtrack to the underbelly. But at its core, the record has some classic songwriting. A Pounding beat kicks off the album opener City Girl before Fitzsimmons’ cavernous, reverberating vocal, backed up by choral harmonies and rolling rhythm section set the tone for the album. Silhouette meanwhile, burns with dark tremolo reminiscent of an early Chris Isaak. 

Cellar Doors plays with a whole range of disparate influences. There are nods to Krautrock throughout the record and Prism modulates to a fantastic melody before raising the pace.  In A Dream is like a beating, distortion backed Donovan tune which straddles the boundaries of hippy mellow yellow and modern day psychedelia. Sirens stand out and hits bass notes that are high in the neck, reminiscent of Peter Hook’s signature style. It drops a gear and lifts the vocal to take this track to an old style Garage style R&B before fading to a vocal wash. 

The amp valves glow bright for the distortion-backed ballad Heroine, while Pale Blue takes you upon a six-minute epic journey. Leading you to a soundscape of rising synths, echoing guitar hooks and paternoster harmonies.  Before the record out drifts out to a close with the acoustic wind of Wild Heart. Building to a gust of distant drums and the splashing of cymbals 

Cellar Doors is a record that rings with influences that sound like a fantasy festival line up. But far from being pastiche, the album has a distinctness that belongs to them alone. Unknown Pleasures was the soundtrack to the crumbling concrete façade of a declining Manchester. Cellar Doors is its rain reflected, neon lit companion. Think more Blade Runner than Thatcherite Northern England. While it’s an album of atmosphere, I can’t but help feel it would have benefited from dialing back the reverb a little in places. But behind the echo lies great melodies and a sound that’s tighter than two coats of paint.

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