Craft Spells: Magic In The Mix

Craft Spells is the '80s-tinted indie pop project of Justin Vallesteros, a restless young man who has, over the course of the past couple years, called Stockton, Seattle and now San Francisco home. It doesn't really matter where Justin Vallesteros lays his head, though, since his bedroom-spun tunes seem to derive not from any current geographical scene so much as from a collective soft-focus memory of '80s new wave: 4AD and Factory Records, New Order and Ian Curtis, everything in a John Hughes montage.

Gallery is Vallesteros' second release with Craft Spells, following 2011's full-length Idle Labor, and the EP sees the band tightening up their synthpop sound considerably, trading dreamy haze for relative directness and clarity. This is immediately apparent and most striking on opening song "Still Left With Me," with its punchy drum machine beat and sharp, sparkling guitar line. Not that Craft Spells has completely abandoned the blurriness: Vallesteros still sings through a flattering mumble of reverb, and the closing title track is little more than a wash. In between, though, are some of Craft Spells' most upbeat and affecting dream pop tunes yet. – Eric Grandy, Google Play

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