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White Arrows - In Bardo (Review)

White Arrows, In Bardo

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 ou of 5

LA’S White Arrows have opted to move away from the futurist funk, psychedelic rock and ’80s-flecked synth pop influences of their debut album Dry Land Is Not A Myth in favour of more head-spinning electro pop that’s geared towards the dance-floor. The results are pretty gratifying.

In Bardo also marks the band’s first time in the studio and the sound that results is darker and heavier, yet also meditative, ritualistic and uplifting. There are moments of euphoria offset by heartfelt romanticism and even brooding darkness.

The latter emerges on a track like Chill Winston where the vocals assume a haunted feel that’s further underlined by a repeated line that seems to be all about “suffering”. But while striking in its own right, it’s far from the sound of the album at its best.

That’s to be found on the synth-heavy We Can’t Ever Die, which combines the sound of early MGMT and Empire of the Sun with elements of Prince to create something epic, head-rush and awe-inspiring. The chorus is particularly empowering and sweeps you along with its energy.

It’s followed by the equally striking Nobody Cares, which employs a catchy guitar loop, a haunted central falsetto and a lazy but cool back-beat that comes together in supremely slick fashion.

And then there’s the reflective Can’t Stop Now, which incorporates more brilliant riff-making with a dreamy, laidback vocal that’s shot through with melancholy. Yet, when it hits the chorus, it suddenly takes off and soars with a powerhouse vocal declaring “you can’t stop now”. The verse strips things straight back down to brooding. But once that chorus returns, it’s back to euphoric highs. And therein lies more of this particular track’s brilliance, with an epic background chanting that would befit a U2 anthem.

The romanticism we alluded to is evident on the stark, sombre but painfully beautiful Scream, which finds the vocals more restrained and croaking to the point of breaking. When the line drops “I want to make you scream”, there’s a woozy synth accompanying it that’s a real show-stopper. While the added line, “I’ll give you everything”, smacks of yearning for something that’s possibly out of reach.

Elsewhere, Leave It Alone builds from a fairly ordinary verse into a big, emphatic chorus; Get By employs some striking electronics and guitar riffs, as well as more of that MGMT comparison, and Devil’s Chimes is a synth-pop epic that combines darkness with some shades of light.

Two-part album closer God Alert maybe a mixed bag, with Part 2 far surpassing Part 1 but, even so, it continues to underline the depth of the band’s ambitions in taking you on a journey and providing you with a genuine experience. And Part 2 is a solid parting shot that thrives on its synth-pop melodies and falsetto vocals.

Put together, In Bardo marks something quite special from White Arrows.

Download picks: We Can’t Ever Die, Nobody Cares, Can’t Stop Now, Scream, Get By

Watch the video for We Can’t Ever Die

Watch the video for Nobody Cares

Track listing:

  1. I Want A Taste
  2. We Can’t Ever Die
  3. Nobody Cares
  4. Can’t Stop Now
  5. Scream
  6. Leave It Alone
  7. Get By
  8. Devil’s Chimes
  9. Chill Winston
  10. God Alert Pt 1
  11. God Alert Pt 2