See Through Dresses are a band from Omaha, Nebraska. Their latest album, Horse of the Other World, is the follow-up to their Tiny Engines debut End of Days, and one which sees a major change of direction, what the label describe as “a sonic leap into a more ethereal, soundscape-driven aesthetic.”
‘Diamonds’ is perfectly titled and serves as an excellent introduction to the new See Through Dresses aesthetic. It’s a big glittering thing, as dreamily atmospheric as it is wide and spacious, 80s synth pop meets morbid post punk, all cast in a wide-screen twenty-first century clarity. What’s still the same is the dynamic between the two primary songwriters and vocalists—Sara Bertuldo and Mathew Carroll—who take turns at spearheading songs across the record.
Despite being heartsick and hopeless, ‘Radiant Boy’ is full of fuzzy pep, the disbelief of death and its permanence layered behind a the radiant rhythm, while ‘Pretty Police’ sees Bertuldo take over vocal duties. The track is rich with syrupy dreaminess but shot through with an undercurrent of shadowy unease. “I always knew you would return one day with teeth,” Bertuldo sings with disquiet, making it increasingly clear that this is not the innocent nostalgia of poppy shoegaze. “To tear out of me the secrets I can’t keep.”
‘Herbivore’ feels slightly harder at the edges, with hints of the complex indie rock of End of Days, while ‘Violet’ returns to the more familiar synth pop sound, a big warm nostalgic song that retains a sense of positivity despite the lyrics, Caroll delivering his lines with a sense of directness and sincerity. ‘Shelley’ returns to crystalline synths and heavy, humid air, a song that recalls the emotive rock of Gleemer or heady bedroom pop of the recent See You At Home EP in its thick and smoky emotion. Again, the track acknowledges pain and darkness while championing the effort of holding on to hope.
‘Lucy’s Arm’ is a chance for See Through Dresses to rock out, giving bassist Alex Kirts and drummer Nate Van Fleet a real chance to shine, although it maintains the atmosphere that’s been crafted up to this point. The euphoric chorus punctures the gauzy MBV shoegaze vibe, though again the lyrics are anchored to something far darker, the imagery ominous and loaded:
“You wear that black dress well
Take it off on Tuesday morning
I used to watch that dark horse run
through the veins in Lucy’s arm”
The title track is far more introspective, the vocals barely more than a whisper to form what seems a sparse and vivid epilogue, that is until around the 2:30 mark, when everything explodes in a cacophony of wailing guitar and pounded drums. Just like the album it caps off, the song is caught between anger and fierce love, as though protecting those you care about and a desire to avenge their pain are two competing emotions, neither quite winning out. As such, Horse of the Other World is both tender and furious—the themes of abuse and addiction peeking out from behind the haze, See Through Dresses meeting their eye and staring right back, unmoving.