The Pastels were a consistent source of power-pop magic throughout the ’80s and ’90s. Their most recent release came in 2002, when they composed the soundtrack for David MacKenzie’s film The Last Great Wilderness. Yet as the release was heavily atmospheric and obviously designed for cinema, many consider The Pastels to have not released an album since 1997’s Illumination. Regardless, the Scottish power-pop veterans have been overdue for awhile now. So fans were delighted in February, when the band announced their first album in 16 years, Slow Summits.
As the May 27th release date for Slow Summits draws closer, The Pastels have treated listeners to two tracks so far, “Check My Heart” and “Illuminum Song”. The latter is actually a b-side, which surprises me considering its sweeping beauty. Maybe it being a half-cover of a Hideki Kaji track has something to do with the decision. The Pastels’ version is a collaboration between Kaji, Katrina Mitchell, and Nick Palmer. “We recorded this Pastels version too, a confident half-cover, but not before Hideki faxed over the tabs of his beautiful, intricate guitar chords,” Mitchell wrote. “At the time I was thinking a lot about Ukichiro Nakaya and Andy Goldsworthy and I guess those formed the theme – astonishing snow art in contrasting scales. And scientific science.” The breezy flow and angelic vocals do coincide well with lush snowfalls, even if that’s hard to envision with summer approaching. If a strong effort like “Illuminum Song” is considered a b-side, hopefully it’s good indication of the success of Slow Summits, its title an apt descriptor of The Pastels’ steady but surefire approach to pop songwriting.