Album Review: Apartment Kids

Apartment Kids
Soft Gamma Repeater
Self Released

Every so often, a truly brilliant record emerges from the Bellingham music scene. A recording that stand above the rest – both in songwriting and sound.  A recording that sounds professional, not just from the streets of Bellingham.
Soft Gamma Repeater by Apartment Kids is just such a record.
A recording project of Peter Hilleary (Navigator/Communicator, ex-Todos Somos Lee), Apartment Kids began in 2012 when Hilleary recorded Rusting Machines to Sleep, an album that was initially only available as a copied CDR. But those who got their hands on a copy were blown away by its quality, and Peter soon posted the album on bandcamp for all to hear.
With his next release, Repeater, Hilleary has taken a large step forward in songwriting, musicianship and sound – something that didn’t seem possible after Rusting Machines, which was stunning on its own. This album doesn’t feel like a recording project, but a full fledged, touring 200 days a year, headlining huge shows type of band. There’s a depth in the album’s songwriting that usually can only be found in that type of band – the subtle nuances that occur when a band becomes professional.
The sound of Apartment Kids can loosely be described as math rock, but to use that label would be to sell it short – the songs are intricate and have a math feel, but there’s an added depth to it. Imagine Rooftops and Mogwai recording an album together and you have a starting point.
While all five songs have a similar sound, there are distinct differences between them – Opener “The Spins” begins with low feedback and subtly folding into chaos bouncing threw different structures, “Exit Pripyat” begins slow and builds, working with the loud and soft dynamic all the way through, “Xenon Poison” is the noisest of the bunch, “Kata Hodos,” the most mathy and closure “Pulsars and Magnetars,” is a beautiful and hypnotic emotional roller coaster.
The album’s sound was aided by a great mastering job from Jason McGerr, drummer of Death Cab for Cutie (and former studio owner). McGerr also played drums on, “Exit,” providing a stunning beat that could only be pulled off by the best of the best.
The only negative of the album is just way too short – five brilliant songs leaves the listener wanting numbers six through ten. But, if that’s the biggest issue with the album, then it’s an amazing work. And it is. Every listen brings out new depth.
Incidentally, it’s important to listen to Repeater while on a good (or at the very least adequate) stereo. This reviewer made the mistake of listening to the recording on a computer, which is kind of like listening to Sergeant Pepper on Mono – it’s just a waste of time. All the subtleties, all the depth of the recording are lost.
Do yourself a favor, go pick up the album before you grab anything else. Sit down, put it on a real stereo and enjoy. You’ll be glad you did.
–Brent Cole