Album Review: Coastal- Beneath The Snow and Streetlights

I’m not even finished with the first track on the new collection of music from Coastal, but I’m already like, “Damn B, this is straight up majestic.”

But why should I be surprised by that? I mean, I’m not. The band Coastal, and the word “majestic,” go hand in hand, really, but whenever I hear the gentle plucking of the guitar, and the soft tandem vocals of Jason and Luisa Gough, it’s a stark reminder of the slow motion beauty that this four-piece is capable of making.

Beneath The Snow and Streetlights is the band’s third album—their first arriving in the dark ages of 2001, then the follow up coming in 2004. Since, then, the band has been relatively dormant. The effort is noted as a collection of five new songs, rarities, alternate and acoustic versions.

Much like the glacial pace that the band plays at, the band themselves move that slowly too. The title Beneath The Snow and Streetlights was announced in 2011 as the “new album,” and a “rarities” collection was talked about in 2013. Usually, when something like this is released, it means that the band is all finished—but Coastal assure us that is not the case.

Combining the dreamier aspects of shoegaze and the aesthetic of slowcore (think Low, only more interesting to listen to), the bleak midwinter is really the perfect time to dive into Coastal’s music, and the fragility of Beneath The Snow and Streetlights is a fitting soundtrack to the short days, the long nights, and the stark snow covered streets. Also helping in that department are tracks with names like “Snowfall,” “Snow in Bethlehem,” and “Shivering.” And then, of course, there’s the name of the album alone.

Along with that “slow motion beauty” comes the realization that these songs are all incredibly somber. Not sad—like, depressing sad or anything. But just somber. Melancholic. Pensive. Contemplative. Thoughtful. And other descriptors of the like. It has something to do with how calculated Coastal are. Every downcast guitar note hangs in the frigid winter air, creating such strong, evocative musical imagery—on top of that are the Gough’s delicate vocals, barely rising above a whisper, causing you to lean in to each song as not to miss anything. These trademark Costal elements are present in every song, but most exemplified in the gorgeous shimmers of the opening track, “We Drink to Remember,” and then the acoustic lullaby “An August Night.”

Serving as an odds and ends collection, Beneath The Snow and Streetlights isn’t really the best place to start if you are not familiar with the band—that would be the 2004 Halfway to You—a record where all of the band’s elements peak and converge. Despite the “mixed bag” sequencing, Beneath The Snow is both a welcome return for a band that’s been away entirely too long, and a peak into some of what Coastal had been keeping locked away somewhere in the archives.
Beneath The Snow and Streetlights will be available soonish from Words on Music. Pre-orders are currently ongoing from the band themselves.