With their sophomore release Unbuilding, the Pauses have hit their sonic geyser, and attentive listeners can marvel at the resulting indierocktronica glints and glitter. Based in Orlando, Florida, the Pauses are multi-instrumentalist Jason Kupfer, vocalist-bassistkeyboardist Tierney Tough, and drummer Nathan Chase. Their debut, A Cautionary Tale, introduced listeners to Kupfer’s studied ear and methodical rock flourishes, Chase’s technical rhythms, and Tough’s attentive musicality and immaculate vocal. Both of their albums were produced and mixed by J. Robbins (Jawbox, Burning Airlines), and his influence can be heard in the heavier guitar propulsion that churns under the allure of the electronic ear candy on the surface. This combination live makes dancing feel like a decision the whole room made at once.
On Unbuilding, the Pauses have evolved their collaborative songwriting, and few tracks show the pop heft of that effort as well as “Digital Detox.” It slams you almost like a wall of sound, with Tough’s typically clear-as-a-bell vocal distorted to great effect, evoking ‘60s girl groups with warped sensibilities. Trumpets, timpani, cello, theremin and electronic elements are called upon to create the Pauses’ authentic sound, and then whisked away to allow the vocals space, as in the sparse, unusual dreamscape on “Had/Have.” Other times, the sound can bound in bilateral increments, like the playful piano to guitar crush of “The Means.” Their range is key, with loud live rockers like “Don’t Wake Me Up” and “Animus?”, which is particularly intense as it dangles wildly at the album’s end and concludes, “What a way to feel nothing real.” That line evokes an overarching theme of the album, which gazes into the black mirror and is smart enough not to take it seriously. Songs like “Eventually, Everything Connects,” “Digital Detox” and “Don’t Wake Me Up” suggest a rebellion against the online drone, with lines that invite you to throw your arms up and sing out, “I don’t need the details shoved down my throat.”