- Soft rock and shoegaze for long summer nights.
- "Diego Herrera is someone whose artistic identity is shaped by the people and places around him," reads the intro to the artist's RA Podcast as Suzanne Kraft from 2015. As well as being excellent, that mix hinted at new directions on the projects that would follow, from wonky bangers like Dude Energy's "Renee Running" to the various strands of subdued instrumental music Herrera has since explored on a number of records for Melody As Truth. His latest album as Suzanne Kraft is perhaps his most revealing, emotive and honest. An introspective journey, About You shows Herrera moving away from New Age and dance music and embracing a downcast, DIY indie rock sound.
The music is dreamy and dynamic, evoking aimless bike rides through the park or sunsets over Venice Beach. Herrera plays electric guitar layered with soft-touch electronics and sings freely about the mundanities of life and the questions they present to us all. Certain tracks, like "Blush" and "Going Down," have the downtempo groove he introduced on Talk From Home, but for the most part, Herrera reveals a whole new version of himself. Blissed-out tunes like "Wildlife" and the opener "On Our Hands" fit in alongside the neo-slacker rock movement, though the bittersweet lyrics stray from the happy-go-lucky themes of that milieu. There's a confused longing in Herrera's voice when he sings lines like, "And then I was gone / Did it feel the same for you as me? / Is it so wrong? / Questions tumble through my head like this constantly."
At his best, Herrera summons the keyed-up post-punk gloom of acts like Polyrock. On tracks like "Red Flag" and "Screenwriter," you can hear echoes of that band's minimalist, keyboard-heavy style, itself influenced by Philip Glass. "Attenuate" plays out with a more mirthful melody, with Herrera sounding both reflective and poised. In a playlist he put together around the album's release, he dropped some all-timers and cult favourites from bands like Alison's Halo, The Motels and Psychic TV. These influences are there if you listen for them. The playlist also includes contemporaries like Maria Somerville, and Herrera's shift into sad dream pop and shoegaze territory puts him in similar, ethereal territory.
For me, the big track on the record is "Waiting," an oddball shoegaze ballad. After a short, feedback-laden intro, Herrera comes crashing in with distorted electric guitar, propped up by sensational backing vocals and soft fingerpicking that give the song an endless, textured feel. It's easy to imagine this and the similarly structured instrumental "Peace" ringing out over a balmy vista.
The lyrics, "Always on each other's pages / Do we like the same / You can know somebody for ages / But that doesn't change the game," seemingly reference social media and interpersonal relationships. The faint ping of an iPhone alert dates the song in the present, a welcome timestamp for an album so clearly rooted in gauzy, pre-millennial rock music. On About You, Herrera reveals unheard layers of emotion, demonstrates deft control over his ever-changing sound and crafts a lovelorn album for summer. Suzanne Kraft has come home.
01. On Our Hands
02. Red Flag
10. Going Down