Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Album Review: Sound Of Arrows - Voyage

Sounds of Arrows - Voyage

There are certain acts in music that come out of nowhere and begin creating exciting and beautiful and instantly classic music. Of course, these are rarely the acts that get the attention they deserve, because let’s be honest mainstream music is rarely about the quality of the product. There are bands such as Sigur Ros, Royksopp, and Explosions in the Sky who are able to create immense and gorgeous soundscapes that transport the listener far, far away. There are pop acts like Robyn, Hurts, and Erik Hassle who create catchy tunes without succumbing to the mindless formula many pop artists do these days. There are even some acts who can achieve all of this and have been for years (Pet Shop Boys come to mind). And now, somewhere in between all of this...is Sound of Arrows.

A Swedish duo (obviously), consisting of Oskar Gullstrand and Stefan Storm, slowly garnered buzz after being selected as an official remix DJ for Lady GaGa’s Alejandro, a sunny rework that outdid the already amazing original. It was obvious they were a force to be reckoned with in terms of production, but it wasn’t until their debut single, Nova, that it became equally clear that they were very much their own artists as well. Taking their time to work off of this buzz and to make a strong debut statement, they took close to a year to release Voyage. I had personally kept only a marginal level of interest until the album was released, but one listen told me all I needed to know about this group.

Voyage is a true album in the way that very few albums are anymore, especially in the pop genre. By this I mean that it is one cohesive statement, masterfully pulling different sounds into one near perfect album. From the first listen I knew that this was an automatic contender for album of the year (and if you have seen the way I gush about Beyonce’s 4 album...you know this is a big statement.) On paper it almost seems like too much. Monstrous orchestral arrangements, heavenly vocals that soar through the music but never overtake it, and sparkling synths that keep the near-classical composition current and exciting. Heavenly gems are plentiful on Voyage, with a couple of the main highlights being the shimmering Longest Ever Dream and whimsical Magic.

What really convinced me of their immense talent, however, is the near 8-minute epic, There Is Still Hope. It starts out with a 2 minute instrumental build-up before breaking into a breathtaking arrangement of vocals that lasts for another 6 minutes. And yet it is such a pressing, gorgeous song that 8 minutes somehow seems way too short. As the swirling synths give  way to the chanting “You’ll come back to me! You’ll come back to me!” I am always hoping it will somehow last longer on each listen. It very much reminds me of post-rock veterans Godspeed You! Black Emperor with their 20 minute masterpieces as There Is Still Hope could go on for much longer and still feel like a perfect song. It all comes down to Sound of Arrows attention to song composition, pop sensibility, and strong musicianship. And it is for that reason that I am positive that this is not the last brilliant piece of work that they will give us.

While Voyage may lose to Bey for my album of the year title (She is my Queen, after all)...Sound of Arrows have done what very few acts in pop, rock, electronic or any other genre are able to: they created a classic debut that made good on all of the previous promise and set themselves up to become trend-setters in the genre. I am already excited to see how they will move forward with their own music, and if they will continue to remix/produce for other artists (Robyn get in on them IMMEDIATELY). Whatever their next move is...they have won a fan in me.

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