“It’s a return to how Tyler and I used to make music, which is just experimenting with anything and everything. We started out using Casio keyboards and drumbeats on our computers, and then we turned into a rock band. This is a return to being free to make anything.“
– Ben Worcester on Said the Whale’s new album
Vancouver indie rock band Said the Whale have made a whopping return this year with their fifth studio album, As Long As Your Eyes Are Wide (3/31/2017 via Hidden Pony Records). After the recent departure of two of its members, the remainder of the band have set out to bring their sound right back to its origin, taking with them a whole new thirst for innovation. Despite their role as pioneers in musical experimentation, Said The Whale’s newest album has harnessed a sense of comforting familiarity in both its cunning musical arrangements and soul-searching lyrics. As Long As Your Eyes Are Wide reaches new heights within its sublime and futuristic bursts of sound, but also succeeds in celebrating the gift of nostalgia, thus creating the paradox that is the unpredictable past.
What is the Unpredictable Past? The Unpredictable Past is rewriting history; taking snippets and samples from the sounds of days gone by and enhancing them with the technology and innovation of the now. It’s EDM on vinyl, 3D films on video cassettes, and Avicii on tape. When we alter artifacts from the past, they become unpredictable, and history is given a fresh stamp, enabling us to enjoy and appreciate it all over again without knowing exactly what’s going to happen next. Said The Whale have taken their novel and rewritten the ending, creating the whole new story that is As Long As Your Eyes Are Wide.
The clashing influences of Worcester’s folk against Bancroft’s ambitious electronics mash together within album, creating an interesting concoction of alchemical harmonies and sonic forays. For some tracks, this collaboration blends into a clean, smooth mixture with little evidence to differentiate between the two creative minds. However, other tracks do stand out as having a more dominating influence, setting off a slight discord of inconsistency throughout the album. But, even with these minor setbacks and recent changes in the band’s lineup, the album’s comprehensive and gleaming finish should not be underestimated.
As Long As Your Eyes Are Wide – Said the Whale
Like all good albums, As Long As Your Eyes Are Wide starts strong. “Step Into The Darkness” serves as both the leading single and introductory track to the album. The steady pulse of percussion sets the tone for the song, leading us into a string of quirky synths and chimes; a strange compliment to Worcester’s placid vocals. The song itself is constructed around a series of witty epigrams and metaphors on love. ‘I was a spark and you were the wind I claimed. All of my fears went up in smoke, up in flames.’ It’s nothing short of your classic, indie love song, equipped with the iconic singing crowds and clap-based bridge. It’s pure indie without a doubt; a ballad of reassurance as the narrator finds comfort in darkness when there’s someone to share it with. Pure indie with an underlying, but organic synth texture.
Soon after that comes the aforementioned and overwhelming sense of nostalgia in ‘Heaven‘. Its dream-like and almost surreal intro ventures far from the album’s opening track. For something that strays so far from the band’s origin, with very obvious influences from Bancroft, the main idea of the track still revolves around nostalgia. Despite this shimmering, electronic introduction, ‘Heaven’s’ chorus is a pleasant and familiar ode to hot, indie summers. Said The Whale long for the distant and heavy dream that is nostalgia, ‘Heaven must be made of it; Nostalgia.’ These rapid jumps between the old and new, modern techniques striking against the comfort of nostalgia, once again highlights the phenomenon of the Unpredictable Past.
In “I Will Follow You,” we’ve made a miraculous return to the traditional ways of steady melodies and infectious riffs, once again thrusting listeners into the simpler sounds of 2007’s Said The Whale. The track erupts with a new-wave tribal sound before As Long As Your Eyes Are Wide‘s iconic synth roots slip back into the equation near the final bridge. The track drives towards this electronic burst of summer; building and building until the bridge crashes with an explosion of unpredictable sonic structures and arrangements. ‘I Will Follow You’ is a quirky, straight-talking and entertaining piece of music, equipped with a few rebellious swear-filled lyrics; ‘Holy fuck, we’re gonna need a ton of luck.’ Once again, Said The Whale have showcased their intriguing ability to mash old and new with a seamless finish in this fun and unpredictable lament to traditional love.
The band delve deeper and deeper into the depths of abstract experimentation in ‘Confidence’; its striking, alien intro paves the way for a track soaked in effects and inventive synths. The track is a little lyrically lacking, in context with the rest of the album. This flaw is quickly compensated for by the track’s advanced arrangements, leading the way as one of the more intriguing tracks in terms of sound. It steers the album away from the Unpredictable Past and offers a peek into Said The Whale’s promising future.
“Beautiful Morning” makes a return to the playful tones of the album’s beginning. Said the Whale have twisted and morphed iconic nursery rhymes into a jazzy, upbeat track, coupled with a pleasant sprinkling of both synth and sax. The struggles of coping with adulthood and life’s decisions are juxtaposed by the use of the classic line ‘It’s raining, it’s pouring,’ at the beginning of each verse; a pleasant reminder of a childhood song and carefree time. ‘Beautiful Morning’ explores the theme of escapism with an almost simplistic approach, breaking the concept down to a definition even a child could understand. This track lulls the album to a steady close, slowly carrying listeners towards the grand finale.
Watch: “Confidence” – Said the Whale
Closer and closer to the finish we grow and the album has drifted into a slow current of blissful, discreet rhythms and echoing, isolated vocals. It lasts for a mere thirty opening seconds in Said The Whale’s second-to-last track, ‘Emily-Rose‘ before it rips into an animated chorus of lively acoustic arrangements; a celebration of both the person and nostalgia. ‘Sometimes good things don’t last long enough,’ a craving for past relationships and times gone by, tying in neatly with the albums overall theme of longing for the past. ‘Emily-Rose’ is both uplifting and exuberant, seeking the bright light at the end of As Long As Your Eyes Are Wide‘s vast tunnel. Bridges drag, building suspense and tension until we’re graced with an uproar of a ballad, not too dissimilar to a World Cup Anthem, or stadium-filler finale to a concert. From this climax, we drop once again to those single strums and isolated vocals, leading us into the final track with complimentary goosebumps and chills.
After the whopping introduction given by ‘Emily-Rose’, “Lilac and Willow” has a lot to live up to. It does not disappoint. Worcestor and Bancroft croon their delicate laments to ‘Sweet nostalgia’, over and over, making this track a more than fitting finish to a well-rounded and focused album. The final track removes us from the indie scene and into a surreal, hymn-like state of bliss. Although paced at first, it’s not long before Said The Whale’s percussion-heavy, guitar-chugging bridge brings us towards a powerful and wailing conclusion. It halts abruptly before slipping into a hazy fade as the line ‘All I do is dream’ is repeated like a mantra, right through to the very last second of the album. ‘Emily-Rose’ evaporates into a whispered close, like the nostalgia filled dream that was As Long As Your Eyes Are Wide.
Here, As Long As Your Eyes Are Wide reaches its a satisfying finish, and thus concluding this lesson on the Unpredictable Past. Said The Whale have captured moments of both raw, harrowing emotion and sheer delight within this album. Its inconsistency of influences is a perhaps one of the album’s most notable charms and truly sets itself as a stamp of new beginnings and new futures for Said The Whale. While not every track was mentioned in this review, each should be commended on their remarkable depth and introspective songwriting. Without a doubt, Said The Whale have not only outdone themselves and reached new heights beyond their abilities, but also constructed an entirely new concept in the making; The Unpredictable Past.
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cover © Taby Cheng
:: Said the Whale :: 2017 Tour Dates ::
04/05 Ottawa, ON – Bronson Centre
04/06 Montreal, QC – Petit Campus
04/07 Kitchener, ON – Centre In The Square
04/28 Victoria, BC – Sugar Nightclub
04/29 Vancouver, BC – Vogue Theatre