When your band is called A Classic Education and your chosen milieu is moody bedroom pop, it gives the impression that the training for this particular canon is a rigid diet of decades-old albums by the Velvet Underground, the Field Mice and Orange Juice. Bologna, Italy’s A Classic Education has no doubt studied those tomes in all their crackling-speaker glory, but a shorthand description of debut album Call It Blazing requires no 20th-century musical references: Simply put, it sounds like the Shins camped out in a closet with Interpol.
Singer Jonathan Clancy — who’s Canadian-born, and capable of delivering English lyrics without a hint of an Italian accent or the slightly askew verbiage that often results from non-native speakers — is a ringer for the Shins’ James Mercer, but that band’s ’60s-pop jangle has been switched out for stormy post-punk guitars and reverb. For the most part, Call It Blazing alternates its tempos: Following every mellowed-out moment (the vintage organ on “Place A Bet On You” is better than Xanax) is a proper pick-me-up (“Baby It’s Fine” clatters its drumsticks just in time to counteract opening dirge “Work It Out”). The album’s first 11 songs were recorded to analog tape in a kitchen with wooden floors, and the echoing ambience is practically a seventh band member. Final track “Night Owl,” recorded by Jon Low and Brian McTear (Kurt Vile, Matt Pond PA), hints at what’s to come: a warmer sound that fills out the naked branches of these songs. For now, though, Call It Blazing is a stark and stunning beginning.