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Shelby
The Luxury of Time
by Katie Sauro

After performing and recording with the likes of Blonde Redhead, Elvis Costello, and Bob Mould, among others, it could easily be said that Kenny Cummings and Phil Schuster, the two members of Shelby, have been around the proverbial block more than a few times, making them veterans in the indie music scene. 

With their latest album,
The Luxury of Time, Cummings and Schuster take a straightforward rock approach, with a steady wall of noisy guitar and heavy, rolling bass.  But to make their sound truly unique, they carefully blend in overtones of jangly Brit-pop, as on “Loudon Wainwright,” synth-laden space-rock, like on “Modify Myself,” and they even seem to channel Seattle grunge gods, Alice in Chains, on “Marigolds.”  And combined with Cummings’ gravelly vocals, at times soft and beautiful, and at others, echo-y and distorted, Shelby creates layer after layer of lush arrangements with absolute precision.

The quiet-loud, slow-fast dynamic perfected in the 80s by My Bloody Valentine is demonstrated often on this album, especially on “Blue Becomes You.” A slow, jangly guitar and a rolling drumbeat open the song, underlying a lethargic-sounding Cummings.  But around the 1:50 mark, the bass suddenly speeds up, followed closely by an onslaught of hard and fast guitar as Cummings half-sings and half-yells, “Blue becomes you.” As he holds his last note, the slow rhythms return, as do his languid vocals.

Highlights on the album include the stripped-down, acoustic strumming of “Let it Be Me,” the slow, plodding, Radiohead-like rhythms of “Salt of the Earth,” and the atmospheric “Jet Blast (Shame),” on which Cummings’ vocals seem to be slowly, cautiously clawing their way out of some dark place inside of him, until he reaches the chorus and is joined by a rush of violins, keyboards, and harmonizing vocals.

The Luxury of Time is definitely worth a listen for fans of My Bloody Valentine, Mercury Rev, and Echo and the Bunnymen.