Since its eponymous debut, Greensboro quartet Citified has stretched things out, slowed things down. It's done so much of that, several writers have called the seven-song follow-up EP, The Meeting After the Meeting, shoegaze. But don't be alarmed: Citified moves with too much pulse and too little abrasion to fall squarely in the trail etched by My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive, its songs bouncing between parts a bit too enthusiastically for that whole scene. Schematically, sure, Citified stretches hooks and guitar lines, letting both bask in the dim, slightly self-reflexive glows of themselves. But, texturally, there's still a lot of lift, anchored beneath by very little clash or malevolence.
Dream pop is perhaps the better comparison, but, even then, Citified's more strident with its transitions and more transparent with its sounds. A banjo doubles an acoustic guitar on the bridge of "March Through Mayday," both overtaken by a slowly advancing electric guitar. Most songs are built from acoustic layers and steady drums. So as not to cover the clean core beneath, the band keeps distortion and manipulation low and the reverb high, letting the natural decay between notes guide the layer. Both over and under steady drums and strums of "KL Gala," Diego Diaz' electric guitar hangs and slides notes, letting the distance between shape the sound. On closer "Bled in an Ocean," the notes are faster, but—gauzed in reverb—they create clouds alongside the hook.
But Citified's chief smarts are structural: The band often twitters just so it can distend, as on the nervy "Line the Streets." A shaky, post-punk electric guitar introduces the theme, subsumed and slowed by a marching acoustic. Its pace is anxious, but when the song opens into the chorus, the vocals float like a welcoming sigh of relief. And "Mascot," the most ambitious track here, packs a perfect mess of movement in four and a half minutes, pitting several rhythms against one another, trim washes of guitar fighting against the pace, eventually stalling the whole thing into a snap-out anticlimax. If anything, this is well-considered pop music, capped by sudden moments of phosphorescence and careful moments of comedown. Oh, and it's very good.
Citified plays Jack Sprat Cafe with Gray Young and Tin Star Friday, March 7, at 9 p.m.