Gabrielle and Burette Douglas, the songwriting core of The Cush, moved to Burlington from Dallas, Texas, in 2001 and quickly became a part of the city's rock regeneration. They brought with them a psychedelic, fuzz-flash sound that was like nothing else heard in area clubs. Influenced by the heady drones and massive, padded hooks of Brit shoegazers such as My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive and Ride, The Cush filled their self-titled debut with dense sound and a shot of Deep South sorrow.
Live, Gabby and Burette partnered with a revolving cast of sidemen -- including just about every local indie-rock drummer -- and fell to the task of blowing minds, one gig at a time. Now, the band has finally solidified a lineup, comprising Gabby on bass and vocals, Burette on guitar and vocals, Aaron Hornblas on guitar, Chris Brodie on keyboards and Steve Hadeka on drums.
New Appreciation for Sunshine, their follow-up disc, is a 50-minute wash of glittering, orchestral pop. Where the band's first album kept its heart buried under layers of guitar sludge, this time around the songs are allowed more room to breathe.
The Cush are such an expansive live act that it's a tad strange to hear their tunes polished, pressed and presented in such an accessible form. The band still sticks mostly to the slow-mo, but they now enliven their songs with accents and embellishments that would have previously been lost in the din.
The lulling "Roll Me" finds Burette and Hornblas conjuring slippery spirits from their guitars as guest Caroline O'Connor blows some sax. "Searching for the Sun" floats along on a fuzz guitar line that slithers underneath Gabby and Burette's sugar-sweet harmonies. "Small Town Movie" is a dusty epic that features spine-tingling lap-steel licks courtesy of David Kammerer.
"Dandelion Wine" snaps the record out of its comatose crawl with whiplash drumming and distorted vocals that burn gasoline-fire-hot before exploding into a squall of screaming synthesizers and razor-edged lead guitar lines.
"Seagreen," possibly the best tune on the disc, anchors the album's final quarter. It's an appropriately summery song with a melody that slides by in a timeless shuffle, riding ripples of good-trip keyboards.
While NAFS may surprise devotees of The Cush's live show, it's a strong record that reveals itself more impressively with each listen. Enjoy 'em while you've got 'em, Burlington, because this band is destined for bigger things.