If you had told me 10 years ago, no even five years ago, that I would enjoy music that had a heavy synth influence I would have scoffed at you. I was too punk rock for that, I needed screeching guitars and loud vocals and intense drums. I didn’t listen to anything pop-y or dance-y because I need aggressive music. I was an annoying teenager when it came to music.
Luckily I got over myself real quick and I got into University and finally had consistent and reliable internet. I can’t tell you how exciting it was to be able to listen to any kind of music whenever I wanted to but it was a really exciting time for me. And as a result, I’ve greatly expanded the kind of music that I listen to to the point where genre doesn’t mean anything to me anymore. My favourite bands are the ones that bend the confines of their genre and dare to challenge what it means to be an x-genre of a band.
Which is why this album, in particular, stood out to me. It’s doing some interesting things that bend what genre expectations are without trying to break them entirely.
Release Date: July 17, 2020
Genre: Rock (?)
But is it Rock Music, Though?
You may have noticed the question mark when I was talking about what genre this is because I’m not entirely convinced it should be classified as ‘rock’. I also understand that my definition of ‘rock music’ is a bit narrow. When I think of rock I think of Led Zeppelin and Queens of the Stone Age.
And yet, this dance-y album is heavier than most albums of its kind. So why do I hesitate to expand my idea of rock music? I think this is worth digging into.
First, I think it has something to do with the vocal approach. Most of the time when a rock singer approaches their vocals there’s a certain amount of manipulation in the sound which gives it rasp and more grit and makes it a bit edgier. There’s also usually manipulation of the pronunciation, specifically with vowels, but it can also be picking out certain consonants that are emphasized over others. This adds a kind of slang quality to the way the vocals are approached which makes them distinctive from other genres.
You’re not going to find that kind of manipulation in this vocal though. Instead, there are techniques closer to soul and R&B where vowels get manipulated to be more open and rounded to lengthen them out and to put in these clean vocal runs that he does here. And I have to say that I respect a vocalist who understands where their strength is in terms of technique and leans into it regardless of what the expectation is for the genre. As someone who isn’t good at rock-vocals in the classic sense but can do more soulful and R&B vocals, it gives me a lot of hope to hear someone who has a similar approach to singing being the lead vocalist for what is considered a rock band, or at least a rock album.
I could go on and talk about the use of synth elements, which is very pop, and I could also talk about the use of funk rhythms in the guitar lines and lots of other little details in the instrumental side of why this feels to me to be something different from what I consider rock music but on average I think the vocal is what made me question that choice of genre more than anything else.
Favourite Track: ‘Modern Disco III’
Maybe I’m biased since this was the first song I heard from this band but it was the reason I listened to the whole album to begin with and it remains the song I come back for over and over again.
So why this song?
I love how staccato it is, from all angles. The guitars are buzzing and fractured, the bass line bounces behind it, and the vocals have an infectious urgency. This song feels like it’s moving faster than any of the others on the album even though there are songs that are almost a minute shorter than this one.
I always find myself getting caught up in the urgency of this song and having to move along with the beat. And you know how much I love a song that can get me moving,
I don’t know how I feel about this album in terms of longevity but what I do know is that I enjoy it while I’m listening to it. I’ve already added my favourite track to my dance playlist so it’s going to come up again while I’m shuffling through my music, but even from the first time I heard the album to me talking about it now I forgot that it existed. And I think something important about doing what I do in critiquing music is to consider whether or not I will return to something that I’ve listened to.
I think what makes this album a little forgettable for me is that other than the first song I discovered there is nothing that stood out to me in this album that distinguished it. It’s a fun album to listen to you and it’s got a great dancing groove to it. However, I didn’t connect to it in the way that I connect with some of my favourite albums or even just the album’s I find myself cycling back to every once in a while. I think if this band wants to make an impact they’re going to have to find what emotion their band gravitates into and where they can push it to make it as potent as possible.