On their third full length release, Cyann & Ben have dirtied up their sound ever so slightly. A bit less pastoral than either their debut Spring of its follow-up Happy Like A Tree, Sweet Beliefs flickers with a touch of darkness and danger that bubbles to the surface at a few points and brings the somewhat wandering album into a stark focus at times.
The group has always created pretty music, and they rock out ever so slightly in places on this newest release, including the album opener "Words," which is actually one of the better tracks on the album as male/female vocals dance together over a dense dreampop kaleidoscope of buzzing synths and thick guitars. From there out, the album starts to lose its way a bit during some very long songs that are nice enough, but don't really do enough to stand out. "Sunny Morning" is a perfect example, spacing out multiple layers of subtle analogue synths over sparse guitar melodies and vocals. During the last minute of the seven minute track, the group pulls things together for a pretty finale, but by then the sedatives have already kicked in.
The most effective moments on the entire release come as the group veers from the more shoegazery sounds and into different areas. "In Union With..." is a perfect example, leaving rhythm almost completely by the wayside as haunting guitar drones mix with gorgeous guitar chords, freestyle drumming, and some harmonized vocals that perfectly lead into the somewhat controlled chaos. It's the most devastating track on the disc, sounding absolutely vulnerable and yet almost defiant at the same time.
There are plenty of other shining moments on the release (the filtered choral vocals and dry heave of guitars at the end of "Recurring," the progressive-rock imbued "Guilty"), but as a whole the nine track, fifty two minute release just feels a bit too languid to leave much of a mark once it's done playing. If you've enjoyed past work from the group, you're certainly not going to go wrong here, but if you're looking for something a little more dynamic, this one might feel a bit tepid.