Cosmic Troubles, the 2015 debut from this Edmonton two-piece, charmed and arrested with its airy, ’60s-indebted jangle, casually perfect guitar tone and, especially, the hypnotically blank aura of Jessica Jalbert’s vocals. While much of the same can be found on this second foray, things feel somehow more complex and unsettled, as the duo branches out to explore further pockets of psychedelia—from crushed-Velvets noise grooves (“Light Of Love”) to dreamy drone pop (“Sterling Silver”)—while navigating nebulous sonic and psychic terrain between lightness and dark, cool detachment and enveloping warmth. Is the emoticon in the album’s title winking in mockery or encouragement? It’s difficult to say, although lyrics like “Nothing is as good as the feeling of waiting” and an array of artifacts scattered across the album (a busy signal; a conspicuously meta spoken “conversation” consisting almost entirely of mishearings; even a barrelhouse-style piano solo that sits oddly with the snarling guitar rock of “Might As Well”) suggest a preoccupation with the often fraught process of attempting to connect. In this case, it’s generally worth the effort.
—K. Ross Hoffman