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Idaho End Their Hiatus With Lapse, a Brutally Beautiful Return to Form

The slowcore pioneers’ first album in 13 years is a somber yet stunning glance in the rearview mirror.

Music Reviews Idaho
Idaho End Their Hiatus With Lapse, a Brutally Beautiful Return to Form

The most striking thing about Idaho is their ability to capture the suffocating nature and slow burn pacing of nostalgia. The Los Angeles-based band, founded in 1992, have returned today after 13 years with their 10th studio album, Lapse—a record that lives up to their legacy as slowcore pioneers. Across 10 songs, the trio have truly outdone themselves with a collection of subdued elegance that makes the past come flooding back.

The tracks that make up Lapse aren’t urgent; rather, they gradually let the grief sink in, giving it time to permeate every bassline, guitar riff and shockingly visceral detail. If early single “Snakes” was any indicator, then everyone should have seen it coming. Jeff Martin’s somber vocals recount the way that even the most beautiful things fizzle out, and a muted sadness that settles in—because you can’t really pretend you thought things would last forever. It seems like we always expect important goodbyes to be a big production; every breakup has to be blown out and up; that there has to be a moment when it all comes crashing down triumphantly. However, Idaho know that that’s not the way it goes. On Lapse, life crumbles under invisible weight, focus decomposes when we aren’t keeping it. Existence becomes dilapidated beyond recognition.

It’s a slow but steady process, one where Idaho’s delicate percussion and placid riffs make the disillusionment even more profound. The trio doesn’t hit you over the head with it; instead, they introduce you to it slowly on “Throw The Game,” where they make their sense of defeat seem almost serene. Martin’s ability to ponder self-sabotage is under the guise of a lullaby, and it’s only once the song has ended that you see there isn’t any allure in playing just to prove you were always destined to lose. It’s like when you call up an ex just to hear them say you are never getting back together—a rush of remembering that, yeah, it did happen, but no, it won’t ever be that way again.

The album is ornamented with the sharp-eyed scrutiny that only hindsight can give you. Still, there is something so sentimental about how Idaho continue to make the same slowcore they once did in the company of Songs: Ohia and Codeine. As the fascination with 1990s subgenres continues to gain traction (see the insane amount of shoegaze bands who have re-emerged over the past two years), the idea of revisiting the cult-classic project you started when you were 20-something is no doubt intimidating. However, Idaho doesn’t pressure themselves to be anything they’re not. The trio refuses to make a huge leap only to fall short.

Instead Idaho play to their strengths, oscillating between the twinkling haze of “Only in the Desert” and the aching minimalism of “Dum Dum.” Lapse shows a deep reverence for everything they were before—obvious on songs like “Heaven on Earth,” which sports memorable distortion and down-tempo grunge guitars. Even their lyrics stay true to form, striking a balance between excruciatingly specific details and direct confessions best expressed on “Somehow.” It’s alive in those closing lines, where Martin’s admission that it “makes no sense that I can’t call you / For now it’s just that way,” that highlight how loss seeps into our lives in the most minute, intimate and back-breaking ways. The wave of regret hits you some random morning when you want to tell somebody about your day but they’re long gone; it hits you when you think you’ve caught a glimpse of them on the subway. You can recall exactly how it felt to see or hear from them, but you still can’t explain it.

There’s no explosion of emotion on em>Lapse, no moment where Idaho fly off the rails. Instead the album is a calculated study of how we get so swept up in the present, only to be banished into the purgatory of retracing every single step once heartache turns into retrospect and regret. Instead of making some desperate plea to try again or some act of contrition, Idaho chose to go out as quietly as they came. The closing track “29 Palms” is a dulcet display of glacial guitars that slowly dissolve into ambience—all before the song melts completely into complete silence. Idaho’s final gift to the listener is a sense of finality, where there is nothing left to say, nothing more to apologize for, no moment where you can confess or atone for your sins. It’s blissful and restful—a brief second where you can sit with everything that has happened and prepare yourself for everything that is yet to come.

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