Look, I’ll level with you with some unsurprising news: the past few years have sucked. Collectively we saw a rise in breakups, obvious emotional turmoil and general uncertainty heading into a future where it feels like the rules have changed, right after we seemingly got used to the new normal.
A lot of indie acts have attempted to tackle the subject of “that certain virus” straight on with decidedly mixed results. Either too on the nose or too indirect as to not offend or distract anyone, these missteps are thoroughly avoided in the deeply powerful and passionate album from Matthew Squires and the Learning Disorders: The Electric River.
So aptly named for the winding paths it takes the listener down, So starting off, as noted in my earlier statements, this album perfectly balances the palpable energy of a global shutdown and the wave of ramifications that we all felt. No more is it apparent that in the final two tracks: New World Anthem and the titular Electric River, as it challenges the current state of the world, our possible chances of survival and despite sound like some breezy post ironic indie fare, there’s a sinister undertone that some might miss on the first time, even with the blunt lyrics and accompanying downbeats that reinforce the backend.
You’d almost be mistaken to believe the ending of the album is so dour, considering how upbeat and romantic it starts. The front half calls to mind the thesis statement of electronic band “The Chemical Brothers” and their song Swoon: “Just remember to fall in love, there’s nothing else.”
As a romantic myself, it’s refreshing to hear something that is so decidedly almost over the top in its romanticism of relationships, the intimate details such as what was on the radio during a drive, the sights, sounds and tastes of a lover, make it almost akin to a diary that we as the listeners as lucky enough to take a peak in. It’s almost too personal how deep it cuts, starting with gorgeous openers “Love and Other Vaccines” so perfectly encapsulates the sense of longing and almost boyish nervousness that comes with earnest statements like “It’s the hand of love, I touched the hand of love.” If you can’t get behind that level of honesty, this album definitely won’t be for you.
For someone like me though, it fires off on all cylinders perfectly, helped by a bang that worked together on the record during lockdown so the communication between the group is very present given how intimate the group feel together. While coming from a direct personal place for Squire, you can feel the band pouring themselves into a shared vision, making the songs feel like equal parts tone poem and jaunty examination of intimacy, with fun detours like a surprising psychedelic sound about Norma Macdonald of all people. It’s a brisk six track release that has zero duds, and an engaging through line, it’s certainly a reviver you’ll float down with ease, barring the uncertain path towards the end.
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