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See Houses’ Pre-Apocalyptic ‘Beginnings’ Video

Couple channels 'The Road,' records in vacant homes

All the way back in 2010, Northern California’s Lefse Records released Houses’ understated debut, All Night. Those 10 songs amounted to an incredibly intimate set of blissed-out, electro-organic soul penned by Dexter Tortoriello and Megan Messina while they were living in a Hawaiian cabin without jobs. A lot has changed since — the couple moved to Los Angeles, and their former hobby now has the look of a serious career — but the duo called Houses still understand how important physical context is to their art.

Their sophomore album A Quiet Darkness is due April 16 on Downtown Records, and it was partly recorded in abandoned homes located along the Californian portion of Interstate 10. And as it turns out, those houses are also part of the album’s narrative, which follows a husband and wife’s attempts to reconnect after a nuclear disaster separates them. “Beginnings,” directed by SPIN contributor Dan Monick, captures a moment of carefree joy — perhaps the last experienced by the song’s characters — before the apocalypse arrives.

In slow motion, we see Messina’s hair flying as she sticks her head out of a speeding car’s window. But when she turns to the camera, her face reveals a look of awe and fear, as if she’s seen a thing that may change the world as she knows it. The song itself is a damningly beautiful thing — the first track on the record, beginning with a music box-like melody and the words, “Well, I watched the house as it fell right to the ground / Well, I was away from you.” Houses’ bleakly pretty harmonies and grinding guitars take it from there. It’s immense.

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