Valby Hallen, Copenhagen, DEN - 26/4
Written by: TL on 04/02/2016 14:21:14
Despite having recently been forced to cancel their scheduled touring plans, due to keyboardist Heather Shannon's need for treatment of ovarian cancer, Australian quartet The Jezabels still stand to release their third album "Synthia" on February 12th. And that figures to be a good thing for listeners everywhere, as both the band's prior albums, 2011's "Prisoner" and 2013's "The Brink" have presented the band as a musical force to stay on the lookout for. The new album's artwork features a woman carrying another on her shoulders, which supposedly you could read something into, but rest assured that judging from the sound of this, neither Shannon nor lead singer Hayley Mary, the band's other female member, need anyone to carry them. Rather "Synthia" sounds a lot like their shared, charismatic and authoritative female voice, lifting narratives of a very human experience that struggles at times, recognizing itself as a woman amidst patriarchal discourse.
To not get entangled in a feminist analysis, though, let it suffice to say that "Synthia" is, in a nutshell, a development of the band's gloriously atmospheric and immersive new wave/synth rock, which puts evocative narratives in women's shoes, set within epic, dark and captivating soundscapes. Nik Kaloper and Samuel Lockwood on drums and guitars provide lively, organic touches in the soundscape's foundation, and Shannon's spacious, unfolding ambiances define the top layers, while Mary's singing varies from the low and mesmerizing, to a dramatic, high-pitched falsetto, which sounds like an opera voice with a rock star's charisma. A song like "My Love Is My Disease" echoes the synth-tastic keyboard riffs of White Lies, who along with The Killers figure as the main band comparisons for new Jezabels listeners. Yet not namedropping Kate Bush as a reference would arguably be criminal while the sheer female power exuded by the band is likely to also draw fans from the likes of Savages and Haim, even if the musical genre is different.
One of the band's recurring qualities is that they strike a great balance between pop sensibility and artistic pursuit. Songs like the seven-minute opener "Stand And Deliver" and the single "Come Alive" stretch out as long and wide as they need, with each musical movement being allowed exactly the time it needs, yet also with a clear sense of direction and structure to the listening experience. Even here the listener feels involved and is provided clear hooks to pick up on and use as gateways to the further levels of the band's universe. Meanwhile others like "If Ya Want Me" and the aforementioned "My Love Is My Disease" dance more fleetfootedly with a direct, chorus-centric structure.
Besides these, "Pleasure Drive" is another striking song on offer, channeling a particularly eerie and prickling vibe with verses circling lyrically around a growing, primal desire to get off. And while others will go unmentioned here, it's not that "Synthia" has weak moments per se, not as a back-to-back album listen at least. "A Message From My Mothers Passed" for instance, might not figure as an individual song you will return to often for its own sake, but it sits comfortably as part of the record's overall flow. And this is actually symptomatic of what The Jezabels pull off better than the latest White Lies record for instance: Making the songs feel more part of a whole rather than just a list of attempts at floor-stomping singles.
In honesty, however, as a male reviewer, any attempts to really specify the allure of the mesh between music and lyrics on "Synthia", quickly feel somewhat presumptuous. Suffice it to say then, that The Jezabels wring their messages and compositions together in such a charismatic and inviting manner, that their new album makes you want to dive into it, again and again, as each casual listen simply grows the urge to want to really explore the whole thing with full attention to both arrangements and singing, and specifically to the lyrics. And there's not much more to say than that's the kind of effect artists should build their albums hoping to achieve, and The Jezabels fine-tune their ability to do so a third time around. So here's to hoping for Shannon's recovery, in large part selfishly, so we can have more opportunities to hear the band live.
Download: Pleasure Drive, Come Alive, My Love Is My Disease
For The Fans Of: White Lies, The Killers, Haim, Savages
Release date 12.02.2016
Dine Alone / Caroline Distribution