REVIEW: The Rentals – “Lost In Alphaville”

After 15 years since their last full-length release, Los Angeles based new-wave pop/rock suit The Rentals conjure up another installment to their collection of whimsical, retro-stylings with Lost in Alphaville.  This time around in the carousel of ever-changing musicians to join primary member Matt Sharp (former bassist of Weezer), Patrick Carney of The Black Keys contributes drumming, Ryen Slegr of Ozma joins as guitarist, Jess Wolf and Holly Laessig of up and coming act Lucius accompany Sharp with fairy-like vocal harmonies, and Lauren Chapman of The Section Quartet produces string instrumentals.  Lost in Alphaville, the long awaited follow-up to Return of the Rentals and Seven More Minutes, makes for a mellow listen of fuzzy guitar riffs, Sharp’s robotic piano instrumentals and gentle, yet often lackadaisical vocal melodies, perfect for drifting away to on a summer day.

The album opens with the sleepy, nostalgic track “It’s Time to Come Home,” with humming breaths and wind-chime-like coos from the girls of Lucius, weaving softly through the undercurrent of Sharp’s monotone yet calming vocals.  Single “1000 Seasons” gears up with buzzing riffs, and features one of the most engaging, upbeat choruses, while the short yet impressionable, wonder-filled track “Stardust” proves single potential, as Sharp indifferently sings “We’re all just like stardust, moving on.  There’s no one you can trust, moving on.”

Second single “Thought of Sound,” contemplates the simplicity of the concept of sound– “There’s nothing more beautiful right now than the thought of sound, it wakes you in the morning, it walks you in the night when no one’s around,”– and “Damaris” is another stand-out track, building in anticipation, drifting with airy whispers, swift percussion and twinkling keys echoing sounds of the 80’s.  The soothing rhythms gradually morph into a twisted, borderline creepy chant as Wolf and Laessig’s hypnotic vocals are played in reverse over maniacal laughing.

While few tracks seem to wash together in a somewhat indistinguishable wave of peaceful, spacey sounds, Sharp manages to construct the music to shine spotlight on his counterpart’s talents to create something listeners will find individually unique to prior Rentals projects.  For a “wonderlust”, nostalgia-filled summer soundtrack, fans of Sharp’s work and first time listeners alike will find an imaginative retreat in Lost In Alphaville.