It’s always nice to start a record off on an exuberant, positive note, and that’s exactly what Skyfactor does in their new album A Thousand Sounds. A folk rock jam that shares the title of the record engulfs us in a brittle but unapologetic rhythm that stops to smell the roses but doesn’t drag as the band lays into “Long Way to Go.” The second track opens with a eulogizing string bit that makes our hearts heavy with emotion and doesn’t get any lighter as they press on. If we were to jump into “Better for the Moment” without hearing the first couple of songs beforehand I don’t know if we’d be able to really connect with its eccentric groove as much as we can during an uninterrupted listening session. The tread on this record is deep and discourages cherry picking, but its concept is anything but rigid.
“The Whole World’s Here” was made for college radio airplay and summarizes the tone of A Thousand Sounds in a little under four minutes of playing time. Vocalist and lyrical mastermind Bob Ziegler smacks us with one epic harmony after another alongside guitar wizard Jon Rubin and his bassist brother Cliff. Drummer Jason Taylor binds everything together with his hardnosed percussion, and this might be the first rock album I’ve heard this year that didn’t favor one specific element of its sound above all else.
The country-influenced ballad “Lost at Sea” lives up to its title and sonically drifts like a boat without a compass. The creative navigation isn’t completely lost on this composition as it fires up one of the record’s more affective choruses, and its subtleties prepare us for the minimalism of “What We Had” and, to a lesser extent, “Run Away.” “Run Away” merges into “Stay Dear” as a bridge to the carnal riffage of “Damn the Remote,” the heaviest song to behold on A Thousand Sounds. The music is lovingly outfitted with folkie melodies as we near the end of the album, which not only solidifies the pastoral feel we sampled in the eponymous opener but also changes the way we digest the closing songs as they’re arranged for us in the track listing.
“New Day” burns off the aggressiveness of “Damn the Remote” by returning to a more tepid pace and cooling the intensity of the lyrics. Ziegler’s vocal becomes sobering and distant in “Hoboken Lullaby,” as if to wave goodbye as the band pulls away from us and dematerializes into silence. The stoic ending feels like a dream sequence, and upon finishing the temptation to immediately play everything over again is as strong an emotion as anything expressed in the harmonies of A Thousand Sounds. The band basks in an oasis of relaxed grooves in this record, but it’s the antithesis of an unfocused album. Skyfactor don’t rest on their laurels in their latest studio offering; if anything they go back to the drawing board and cultivate the qualities that have made them such a big draw since their inception over a decade ago. There’s no end in sight for this New York indie crew, and it’s my contention that anyone who gives A Thousand Sounds a spin will be inclined to agree with me.
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