At the beginning of the traumatized “My Best Friend,” Christchurch-based singer-songwriter Nick Harte murmurs matter-of-factly: “I’m sitting at the library; my best friend has no home.” Much of the frustrating, grief-stricken Guilt Mirrors, Harte’s new album as Shocking Pinks, was written after his hometown was struck by a catastrophic series of earthquakes, and his lyrics shoulder the burdens of pain and mundanity in equal measure.
Unfortunately, Harte is just as likely to hide himself in vaporous instrumentals as come clean about his feelings. Guilt Mirrors comes after six years of lead time and plops three albums’ worth of material in a single release. There are still examples of his trademark lo-fi, New Order-style pop (“Not Gambling,” “Ten Years”), but just as much of the album is cloaked in formless noise — “Glass Slippers,” a compact fuzz study, leads into the billowing “Beyond Dreams,” and by the album’s third disc, any narrative is lost in the clouds.
Guilt Mirrors does have moments of startling clarity: “Love Projection (dedicated to Jerry Fuchs)” is an earnest confection of warm congas and woody percussion, while the twitchy “What’s Up With That Girl” benefits from guest Ashlin Frances Raymond’s mellifluous vocals. But overall, it’s a dense compendium of material, reportedly culled from more than 386 demos, and not all of it is essential. On “Ten Years,” Harte laments that he “felt like an apple with no core.” The feeling is echoed throughout the album, and the feeling, as the triple album wears on, is contagious.