House of Souls (Yellow Year)
Reviewed by Doug Freeman, Fri., Nov. 18, 2016
Tele Novella drapes itself in aesthetic, their debut LP House of Souls swooning with a throwback Sixties psych-pop that nevertheless sounds fresh and authentic. Beginning with opener "Sacramento," the Austin quartet paints a world that's eerie, intoxicating, and both visually and sonically vibrant. Former Voxtrot rhythm section Jason Chronis and Matt Simon hold down a macabre low end as Natalie Ribbons' breathless and reverbed vocals drift dreamy melodies against Sarah La Puerta's kaleidoscopic keyboards. The resultant gypsy-pop floats "Waiting on an Answer" lightly and explodes into a Belle & Sebastian punch on lead single "Heavy Balloon." Ribbons' voice tinges an underlying mixture of delight and anxiety, an observational awe and existential urgency that unfolds somewhere between Neko Case and Nancy Sinatra. Warping arrangements keep songs like "Bull Sees Red" and "Fruits of Misery" winding with mystery. The dark burn in "Dead Canary" and surf rock riff and yelp on "Even Steven" lay out a moody swagger contrasting the crooning harmonies of "The Snake That Swallowed the Elephant." Tele Novella spin their own bizarre world, but House of Souls beckons a unique pop glow.