Written by Daniel Belgrad (Vern Matz)

Blue Tomorrows’ record is a cozy, centered puzzle box with a surprising amount of mechanics under the hood. With a clear dream pop impulse at its core, Future Proof utilizes a clever array of instrumentation, which often blend into a snug wall of sound. Interestingly, the album does not feel decidedly expansive; it is a meticulous record whose scope is finite, but quite successful and exact in that measured space. 

Portland native Sarah Nienaber’s 2nd album utilizes a collection of classic dream pop staples: delay guitars, thick vocals, floaty synths, etc. These propel the record and lend it an air of familiarity, but in understanding the album, they don’t quite get at its particularity. I immediately latched onto the rhythm section, characterized by quiet, atypical drums, and proactive, often loud, bass. It’s an intriguing mixture, adding a sense of esoteric ambiguity to the work. Because the album doesn’t lean in to staple indie grooves, it doesn’t ‘hit’ in an obvious way, but the decision also endows the record with a bold sense of novelty. 

A great example is Blackbirds which sets up to sound like a propulsive Real Estate surf jam, before delivering a contemplative, touching piece. This is common on the record, which is pensive and warmly sedentary, fitting into a snug place right around the heart, as opposed to expanding the corners of the psyche. It’s a notable dynamic since dream pop often feels otherworldly; Future Proof feels emphatically personal and that’s an achievement given it’s genre expectation.

A special mention should be given to Violet Shine, which is brilliant. The landscape feels lush and wide, with its constantly shifting bass and odd triple kick pattern hitting in an emotionally immediate way despite its strangeness. It’s a really beautiful combination of musical subversion and aesthetic reward. 

I’ll pay a final note to the record’s sonic ambition – special thanks to the vocoders, Arcade Fire style strings, and buzzy synths. Although they rarely take the foreground in a commanding way, these trinkets are clever musical choices to fill out the world of Blue Tomorrows, whose artwork and wonderful song titles set you up for Nienaber’s wistful playground. There is something burgeoning and bubbling here, a record that oozes without exploding, shimmering and sparkling in a gentle succession. Like a stuffed animal, I’ll hold this album closely, all the while keeping a careful eye on Blue Tomorrows. It seems a beautiful transformation is taking place in Oregon.

Highlights: Violet Shine, Snow Moon Blues