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Tickling grey matter

Spirit Award aim to take your brain for a walk

Spirit Award bring driving pop and sky-high psychedelia. Photo credit: Lord Fotog

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When you're listening to psychedelic music, at some point you have to make a choice: Where exactly do you want your brain to go, and what do you want it to be doing? Some bands are paramountly concerned with melting brains and faces and basically everything that isn't bolted down. For these bands, if you aren't going through the wormholes of 2001: A Space Odyssey and ending up on the other side of Jupiter, then something has gone terribly wrong.

I find myself more attracted to psychedelic bands that are more interested in tickling the folds and creases of my grey matter - sprightly psych-pop bands that care more about long car rides than space travel, that are drawn to the sweet perfume hanging in the air of an outdoor festival as opposed to those particular chemicals that get you thinking about the origins of the universe and the probability of your heart to just stop working. The Flaming Lips, in their run of The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, hit my sweet spot for sky-high psychedelia that tackles the Big Questions without ever sending you down an existential spiral.

Spirit Award, meanwhile, land somewhere in the vicinity of the War on Drugs, with a little Tame Impala sprinkled over top. (At least according to their Heavy Fog EP; Spirit Award have said that their forthcoming LP will find them "dirty, more aggressive, and a little more hazy.") On the opening title track, "Heavy Fog", Spirit Award finds the same hazy, driving sound that the War on Drugs finds. Unlike the War on Drugs, though, their sound is less a yellowed version of a Springsteen song, and more of a catchier take on Krautrock. The steady beat and monotone vocals give a backbone to the translucent sound that lays over the rest of the song.

While the sound of Spirit Award is blissful and careening, there's an underpinning sense of dread, especially with that title song. That easygoing sound is undermined by lyrics that tend to portend terror, not unlike your average psychedelic experience. Kaleidoscopes are subterfuge hiding unhappiness, and for a compromised person, it's a tricky feeling to navigate. Veering off the tracks could prove disastrous, so it's a very important thing to take Spirit Award at face value. If you're interested in looking inward, however, this is the kind of band that could take you by the hand and guide you into the areas that don't often reward close examination.

"Chase Some Mystery," with its insistent bass and spacy synths is the closest Spirit Award comes, on its Heavy Fog EP, of digging their dirty fingers into your brain and starting to contort things. Even with the honeyed vocals, there is an element of danger that perhaps hints at the direction in which Spirit Award intend to go. Distortion begins to become a presence, even if it only licks at the edges of the song. Still, the frantic hi-hat allows the song to remain a pop song: the repulsion is never forsaken in the name of psychedelia.

Spirit Award will be joined at Real Art Tacoma by Flaural, another band that dips into psychedelic sounds, but that tends more toward the heavier aspects of psych-rock. Still, I'm always going to be inclined to curl up with a band that will give my mind that tingling sensation that only ever comes when a limb falls asleep. When Spirit Award comes to Tacoma, consider what kind of excursion you'd like your brain to take: Do you want a pleasant stroll down a rainbow road, or do you want to plummet into an abyss that's soaked with the answers to questions you never needed answered?

Real Art, All Ages, w/ Flaural, J. Martin, the Gregarious Oranges, the Sherman Family, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 7p.m. $10, 5412 S. Tacoma Way, Tacoma

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