In The Valley Below (Jeffrey Jacobs and Angela Gail) met in LA at a rock and roll show. Jacobs grew up in Memphis, Gail in a small town in Michigan. Sometimes musicians, sometimes beer brewers, the duo are themselves a bit like a craft beer from a West Coast hip-hub city. Looking at the pair, who play shows in stark, old-fashioned garb, one would just make the assumption that they are a folk duo. . . well, not so. They could be described best as a dark, hoppy synth pop act—there are some vague echoes of “indie rock” and even alt-country here and there in these dramatic dance tunes. At heart, they are synth-pop revivalists who have effusively praised Phil Collins in the same breath as Bob Dylan in interviews. Indeed, The Belt, their first full-length record, released last year, was more or less an 11-track collection of power ballads that would have been right at home being played over the ending credits of imaginary ’80s movies. Gail and Jacobs share “lead vocal” duties, which gives off the impression of an equal artistic partnership. The over-the-top romanticism of these tunes can be sort of affecting and sweet. Perhaps they have taken a page or two from Depeche Mode, as well as the influences they’ve made more clear.
The insistent, often almost frantic melodies are propped up competently by guitar fuzz and stylish synth hooks. While the arrangements and chord progressions in this band’s songs are nothing at all remarkable, the charming little touches thrown in here and there (as well as the duo’s effortless chemistry) make it all work. To tell the truth, their debut efforts were rather shockingly self-assured and polished. They obviously have a good ear for production.
Fans of “indie pop” will appreciate the lyrical sincerity, soulful vocal harmonies, and fresh hooks of In The Valley Below. There is some darkness hiding within the polished escapism and romance. »
– Matthew Sweeney