Husband and wife duo Mario and Sarah Quintero, playing under the name Spotlights, has gotten a decent amount of attention, at least in the metal circles I run in. Reading up on them, you're likely to see things like "post-metal," "sludge," and "doomgaze" along with comparisons to My Bloody Valentine and Smashing Pumpkins. Some of these are sorta/kinda reasonable to one degree or another, but for the most part, they describe this music only glancingly. Some music can seem intimately familiar but still be hard to pin down in words.
I'll put my own bias out there: Smashing Pumpkins' Siamese Dream was my jam in college. The heavy mixed with the light, the unbelievable drumming, the heart-on-sleeve emotion--it pushed all of my buttons. I hear a lot of that in Spotlights' own new album, Tidals, but there are plenty of differences. Tidals is sonically heavier than Siamese Dream, but without the frenetic energy that Jimmy Chamberlain brought to the drums for the Pumpkins. (Perhaps that's how the "doom" in the "doomgaze" description came to be.) Sarah and Mario's vocals are wispy and ethereal, but they're also refined in a way that never came naturally to Billy Corgan's delivery. That said, I can't listen to "To the End" without hearing some serious Pumpkins' riffery, and it makes me feel a pleasant bit of nostalgia throughout the album.
So the question is, are Spotlights more than the sum of their influences? Definitely yes. This isn't an album of B-sides from 90s alt-rock's hits. Tidals is what happens when that sound grows up. The light vocals-heavy music contrast puts me in mind of those days, but there's no questioning their originality. There's a deft touch of electronica throughout, but it's in no way overpowering. This is about thick guitars and delicate voices (except for one nice touch--a Baroness-esque holler in "To the End"). Album-closer "Joseph" is probably the most striking song to me here. It starts with a soft patter of percussion and ringing guitar before bringing in the sludgy guitar and rising, almost-urgent vocal lines. Even without the lyrics in front of me, it feels like the most emotionally naked song of the album. Its uniqueness perhaps suggests where these two might be headed, but even if not, it demonstrates conclusively why this isn't a nostalgia trip. This is a band to watch out for.