Circa 2012, dream-pop duo GEMS sounded refreshing amid D.C.’s somewhat conservative indie-rock scene.
With floaty songs like “Pegasus” and “Never Age,” University of Virginia grads Lindsay Pitts and Cliff Usher tapped into a sound sweeping cool music blogs at the time: teary electronic pop indebted to British record label 4AD.
It was a somewhat engineered choice, as Usher told Washington City Paper in 2013. Pitts and Usher had been getting nowhere with their previous band, indie-folk act Birdlips. Reinventing themselves as GEMS, with a sleeker style and trendier sound, nearly guaranteed the musicians a bigger audience.
Now GEMS seems closer to the break it’s always wanted, with a publicity firm, a record deal and a formal debut — Kill the One You Love — expected out Oct. 30. The pair has already released two songs from the LP: “Living As A Ghost,” premiered in August by NPR, and “Tangled Memories,” a single the band dropped today.
But while Kill the One You Love will come out on D.C. imprint Carpark Records, GEMS is no longer a D.C.-area band: Pitts and Usher recently relocated to Los Angeles, the city that seems to have displaced New York as the No. 1 destination for D.C.’s aspiring music stars.
For local fans of GEMS, the duo’s departure may feel like a betrayal — but the same couldn’t be said of their new music. It’s as morose and pristine as ever.
GEMS plays U Street Music Hall Oct. 23 with Autre Ne Veut.