Certain moments in the opening bars of "Paint," the last track on Social Studies' Developer, disappear into silence entirely. It's a startling trick: Silence becomes part of the beat, and even after it has been filled in by lingering bass or arcing guitar, your brain puts it there. It is the logical extension of Social Studies' atmospheric technique, a pop aesthetic that gives each sound time to be heard and considered.
Of course, you can save a lot of that time by thinking about Beach House. The terrible irony of atmospheric music is that it all kind of sounds the same, and Social Studies drinks deeply from the tossing sea of melancholy reverb that is synth pop in 2012. The title track is a sort of inverse "Silver Soul," descending where the Beach House song climbs and settling into its beat where "Silver Soul" gets antsy. Still, the similarity is inescapable. Natalia Rogovin's voice is more brassy and less ethereal than Victoria Legrand's, and at times Developer reaches for something grittier than its counterparts' ambitions. Mostly, though, it remains trapped by the high walls of dream pop, a satisfying exemplar of the species that periodically scrabbles to escape.