Not to make any assumptions about the romantic lives and recreational habits of its members, but Pity Sex sure seems comfortable making music that would appeal to a lovesick stoned person. White Hot Moon creates a dour but welcoming world of ’90s-inspired guitars and male/female vocals, where actions have consequences, everyone is having sex, no one is connecting and everyone is always thinking of someone else.

No doubt there’s a lane for this kind of detached, second-wave shoegaze, but what sets White Hot Moon apart is the specificity of its suffering. The characters in Pity Sex songs aren’t passive in their pining; they’re out there giving and getting, dealing with the fallout when it comes. “Burden You,” for example, paints a picture of someone willing to exchange their body to get over a lost love (“Follow me home between my sheets/ And mend the burden in me”). “Bonhomie” tells the story of someone trying to shed someone they can’t seem to shake despite themselves (“I can’t bear another boring night/ You disgust me/ You disrupt my every thought”). The album’s lyrics tell effective, real-to-life stories of characters who are compelled, self-destructive and unable to get out of their own way. It gives the record a feeling of weight, keeping things from getting too twee.

The stakes come home to roost on “Plum,” the album’s most affecting song. On an album loaded with multi-layered guitar and high-energy drums, the track is an anomaly; for roughly half its runtime, the track is only guitar chords and vocalist Brittany Drake. Using the same soft, even delivery she employs throughout the entire album, Drake tells the story of her mother’s death, letting words like “fade and wither” and “too sick to eat” fill in the gaps in the story.

The album’s lyrical effectiveness is sometimes undercut by the band’s music. It feels off to criticize a shoegaze band for being too shoegaze-y, but the moments on the record that have the least impact are the ones that fit most snugly into genre-accepted characteristics (the dual-wail vocals on the humming “Nothing Rips Through Me” jumps immediately to mind). The band leaves itself some room for variations on the themes, though; “Orange and Red” has two more guitar riffs than it would need, and both are welcome. The drums are consistently sharp, especially on “A Satisfactory World for Reasonable People” and “Bonhomie,” when they push tempo and energy in a way that feels almost directly opposed to the consistently flat vocals. Nothing ever gets chaotic, but the musical variations match the liveliness of the lyrics nicely.

Of course, that’s all part of the larger appeal of White Hot Moon, which follows more of a quiet – less quiet – quiet structure than it does a quiet – loud – quiet structure. Pity Sex’s second album soars when its lyrics bring a new, more cutting dynamic to an established genre. Even when it doesn’t, it serves its hazy contemporaries well. Somewhere out there right now, there are college kids who are getting their hearts broken and using whatever resources available to numb the pain while recovering before the next mistake. White Hot Moon is what they should be reaching for.

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