The sea, forest, stone and sky swirl together in green, pink, orange and blue, in Amanda McGlothlin’s cover art for the new EP entitled PWR.HAUS, by the band with the same name. Pine trees look like they’re being uprooted to sway and dance around in the mirage. It’s a trippy image, a recognizable landscape taking on the quality of a dream. Such a visual introduction made the experience of listening to this soulful and dreamy album somewhat hallucinatory: I was hearing birds, seeing the sunrise in each song. It’s like the album’s topic: Love. What hallucinatory powers love has, how dreamy it can be, how living in a fantasy can feel realistic. But it is real, too, like the trees. Sometimes it uproots and floats around.
I saw PWRHAUS perform a David Bowie cover set in the weeks following the icon’s death. At a packed Holocene, Tonality Star led his band through four Bowie covers, including “Star Man.” They nailed it. Everyone was transfixed — hands up in the air — and Tonality stepped into that enigmatic lodestar role.
His voice can boom. I heard it at Holocene. But for his latest EP released this May, he softened. The melody, blending into a dense atmosphere, sings sweet like a lullaby but doesn’t lull you to sleep. It wakes you up in a dream universe that PWR.HAUS made the bed for. You’ll feel like one of those trees, floating in a sea of soft color.
The lyrics to each song could be compiled into one brief love letter. Not to say it’s about one person — I don’t know that — but it’s the universal experience of love distilled down to the bare language that expresses one stage of romantic love or another. The titles alone say it: “Got You On My Mind All The Time,” “You’re The Only One,” “I’ll Never Let You Go.”
The album floats a head-in-the-clouds kind of floating, so that it feels like one long song. Opening with “Got You On My Mind All The Time,” he sings “I haven’t known you for a long, long time, but when I look into your eyes…my my” and the sound of new love ensues — hopeful, breezy and brave at the same time — and the dream opens up. I hear ocean waves in the anthemic discovery of the magic that is someone else.
“Heartbeat” maintains its namesake pulsating beat throughout. Asking his lover to hear that he is real, that the love is his body, and then it ends like they set off into space, making the sounds of stars twinkling and chiming.
I could listen to “Always” over and over. I hear seagulls at the shore (the ocean keeps coming back). Then it sounds like a muffled emergency siren. His voice is omnipresent. There is tension in the soundscape, while the lyrics are a tender declaration: “Deep inside my heart you always will stay, everyday, every way…always.”
“I’ll Never Let You Go” ends the album. A voice drugged on love sings:
Like diamonds in the sky, I wish upon your light.
Your body next to mine, that dream is so divine.
What a place to be, when the dream is real. These songs are the tunes of that head-swirling high, reveling in love, on both sides of heartbreak, loved found and love lost. What inspires me I think is that PWRHAUS’s sonic universe doesn’t dwell in heartbreak, and maybe that’s why it feels so dreamy. The fear of a new venture of love, of impending loss doesn’t impede the moment or the clarity. And where there is loss in the songs, there is an immunity to hard feelings. There is trust in an everlasting love in each song.
Even if no one comes to mind to you while listening, I think you’ll crisply remember how great it is to fall in love. How uncontained your feel, how easy it is to float. Even knowing love lost, PWRHAUS leaves you suspended in the clouds, and it’s as if maybe there is a chance that not all our ascents and descents into love have to end in heartbreak.