When everything clicks, Disappear Here contains charms that are very, very difficult to resist.
A band like Night School can seem rooted in the past so much that it verges on self-parody. The California trio managed to avoid such a fate on their 2016 debut album Blush, but even that album invited comparisons to the legends of yesteryear and more recent acts who, like Night School, have turned to them for some sort of inspiration. Disappear Here won’t invite the same sorts of comparisons, though it may result in a few new ones that will inevitably be directed the band’s way. However, to say that the album is pure imitation would be doing Night School quite the disservice.
Where Night School’s early work borrowed from ’60s pop and doo-wop, Disappear Here removes all of that save for the Spectoresque wall of sound. The band have described their sound here as a take on psychedelia, and while there’s elements of that here, the ethereal feel of the guitars recalls shoegaze and shoegaze-adjacent acts like Swirlies and Velocity Girl as much as anything in modern psychedelia. Opener “Spaces” presents a harder edge to the band with droning, distorted guitars startling the listener to attention with a tempo that recalls more stoner rock than any sort of pop, but it’s then followed by the lighter-than-air dream pop of “Marigold.” This push-and-pull dynamic repeats throughout the album as the band divide time evenly between psychedelic crawls and bouncy, jangly pop, but they handle both sounds with such aplomb that it’s hard to get really thrown off at any lack of cohesion. Disappear Here may play more like a collection of songs than as a unified piece, but it does so with such skill that it’s hard not to think that that’s what Night School wanted from this.
If there is a qualm to have about Disappear Here, it may have to do more with the songwriting. By having the album play more like a singles collection, it becomes a problem if said singles don’t entirely grasp the listener, and unfortunately that’s the case with some of the songs here. Particularly, the slower, more distortion-heavy songs start to feel formulaic after a while, and their reliance on mood over melody kind of becomes their undoing as the album goes on. Things pick up towards the end of the album as Night School’s songs remain more uptempo and move at a quick pace, but even that can serve to make the album go by in a blur at times. Although it has bright moments, Disappear Here can occasionally feel slight, particularly if one has heard the sonic elements they’re playing with many times before.
Even so, plenty of artists have tried to do what Night School have done here and come up short, so Disappear Here deserves to be recognized for how strong it can be. There’s certainly an audience out there who will love this record, and Night School have given something that can definitely be appreciated on its own terms. A more well-versed listener may find the album unremarkable, but when everything clicks, Disappear Here contains charms that are very, very difficult to resist.