Marshmallow Coast is the brainchild of Andy Gonzales, former guitarist of the minor indie sensation Of Montreal. Originally touring with both Of Montreal and Marshmallow Coast, he recently left the former band for good to devote his time to Marshmallow Coast. Despite a handful of mixed reviews and an all-out denunciation by reissue-lovers Pitchfork, Gonzales’ newest album, Antistar, still packs a punch as a slightly idiosyncratic but charming pop album.
Gonzales’ uncertain, slightly honky vocals are reminiscent of Herman’s Hermits. The standard Marshmallow Coast song is as follows: one guitar (sparse), one bongo (intermittent), one flute (generous). It’s a sort of return to Sinatra’s old recordings, at least as far as the instrumentation goes.
“Pink Underwear” is a perfect example of the formula. Gonzales’ vocals float along with the song, accompanied by the aforementioned and what appears to be a guiro (that fish-shaped percussion instrument), as he intones, “Remember the days of summer make the feeling last / remember the days of summer, they’re almost past.”
For the most part, that’s the stuff of Antistar. “Swift Little Mercury” is a strange, soothing instrumental, reminiscent of a ’70s drama. Near its end, the song is interrupted by synth noise, then terminates with a spoken passage that sounds like something out of a 1950s filmstrip (“First, swift little Mercury, then Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn”) with what sounds like a Theremin droning in the background.
Antistar sounds like something from a completely different era. “Sun Was Gone” is a waltz that shifts from verse to chorus, anchored with a meandering synth line. “I need you / I plead to you / from the way you talk / I can deduce several feelings / and their meanings are lost,” says Gonzales in song form before switching adeptly into the familiar backbeat.
His delivery is hard to pin down — something like a kid making his first recording, just set to eccentric music. There’s a weird air of wonder that pervades Marshmallow Coast’s sound, mostly because of Gonzales’ voice.
There are a couple of true pop moments to be had, though. “The Vultures Appeared” sports an irresistible guitar hook and a syncopated bass line with a strong but simple drum kit underneath. The lyrics are likewise simple but impossible to get out of your head, with quips like, “She goes out with everyone she sees / She’s gone out with everyone but me.” With Gonzales’ slightly apathetic and resigned tone, it’s easy to identify with the sentiment.
“Sunrise” is another unclassifiable song, featuring what appear to be a tuba, banjo and guitar. Over in just over two and a half minutes, the song is a reflection on the joys of the nighttime, weirdly innocent and dark at the same time, with a main vocal of, “Sunrise / who can be happy after sunrise / that’s when the nighttime is all through / but what do nighttime people do?”
It’s impossible to qualify Marshmallow Coast as being good because there’s nothing comparable out there. The band stands so completely alone from its indie peers that it’s impossible to really call it anything but unique. Its execution is technically spotless, and its lyrics are quirky stories that work together well. Despite these compliments, Marshmallow Coast is sure to alternately garner acclaim and raise eyebrows with listeners.