Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Album Review: White Lies - Rituals (4/5)

English alternative rock band released their début album To Lose My Life... early 2009, a time where that '80s induced new wave indie rock sound had been done to death. To say the blackening set was heavily inspired by the likes of Interpol, Editors, The Killers and Elbow would be quite the understatement—and ultimately, not quite matching the level of critical acclaim of those that came before, however commercially it was a hit, earning the band a first #1 album.

I thought the title was slightly ironic as the one thing I thought Life... needed was a little more ...Life. While it definitely had its highlights, it definitely indulged in a bit too much gloom-rock for my liking. Thankfully, its follow-up Ritual packs a tougher punch, packing more enthusiasm and conviction, verging into electronic territories and grander anthemic rock, while still maintaining that atramentous element that made Life... a hit.

The progressive opener “Is Love” highlights Harry McVeigh's blusterous, audible vocal over the prominent continuous heavy drum beats, raised over the murmuring layers of guitar chords beneath. It's a strong opener; gradually introducing the blackish soundscapes and hazy electronic undertones. Turning up the rock grandeur is “Strangers,” multiple energetic muffled guitars take the prominent role here, straining through the the underbelly of the song, while Jack Lawrence-Brown gets quite energetic with the drums—more energetic is lead single “Bigger Than Us” which clocks in the anthemic rock quite nicely; big vocal-charging chorus and soaring layered electronic guitar backing.

From upbeat anthemic rock to the more downbeat, the aptly titled “Peace & Quiet” flourishes with '80s inspired electronic undertones undercut by pulsing synths, strings and quiet beats. It's tame, but still exudes confidence—“Streetlights” has a very strong Killers feel, working prominent drum beats, big '80s influenced synths and a haunting connotation. It's still very downbeat.

The upturn in “Holy Ghost” is awesome. It's shimmering rock-studded production is flawless—great blusterous synths, Muse-inspired grovelling electronic guitaric undertones. In fact, the whole song reminds me of something Muse would do—and it works very well. “Turn the Bells” plays down the emphasis on the guitars and ups the warbling synths, while strange sonic clattering clangs beneath the haunting production—it sounds a little Middle-Eastern and very experimental.

Skewed electronic beaming and pulsating synth-bass lines make up the pulsing “The Power & The Glory.” I'm not sold on this, I think it's a little underwhelming, however better is “Bad Love” another fantastic demonstrating of anthemic rock; chugging guitar chords, whittling synth beats and a powerful induced melody-strung chorus. Closing the album is “Come Down” another vocally-charged number, but with a very underwhelming clanging production.

Ritual marks White Lies venture into more anthemic, upbeat (give or take), melody-driven rock as well more experimental territories. It's definitely a more coherent set than To Lose My Life... as well as emerging as a more confident set of songs and indeed exudes more Life.

Best: Holy Ghost, Bigger Than Us, Bad Love, Strangers, Is Love, Peace & Quiet

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