Cocteau Twins – Heaven or Las Vegas4AD, 1990
Acquired: Half Price Books, Used, 2013
Coming from the murky depths of sophomore LP Head Over Heels, Heaven or Las Vegas sounds like it’s from another planet. Like literally, music from some other world. I feel like I’m underwater when I’m listening to it. The guitars shimmer in a way that feels like the platonic ideal of “shimmering guitars.” Like the adjective was first used for this record because man oh man does this thing shimmer. “Ethereal” is another word you see whenever Cocteau Twins are mentioned and again, it’s because well yeah this is what I think of when I think of ethereal. The way the vocals sort of drift like a ghost through the shimmery guitars on “Iceblink Luck,” and the way Elizabeth Fraser contorts her voice like some deformed pop goddess. “Dream Pop” is another term that gets used a lot with Cocteau Twins, probably because this album is a sparkling example of the genre. The music still feels hazy but there’s a crispness to it that Head Over Heels didn’t have. Granted, a lot of maturing can happen over seven years. It’s sublime. Just absolutely gorgeous and mysterious. Jenny says it’s either springtime or summer night music and I’m inclined to agree. Despite the coolness of the synths there’s a sensuality to Fraser’s vocals that fills this whole thing with warmth. The thump of the bass right up front lulls you into a hypnotic, drug-like state (which is almost sadly ironic considering that Simon Raymonde’s bass was pushed up so much to compensate for Robin Guthrie’s ongoing battle with drug addiction which correlated with a certain absenteeism). The title track is one of the most disgustingly beautiful tracks I’ve ever heard. Leave it to the Scots—a group of people typically associated with a certain glumness brought on by overcast Northern Britain—to create some of the brightest pop music (I’m looking at you too, Teenage Fanclub).