Review Summary: (hips)terrific.
I have a complicated relationship with hipsters. Their very existence necessitates their criticism, for being attention-seeking is hardly ever a popular character trait, and yet sometimes the manner in which they strive to set themselves apart is just so unique, so fervent, so damned interesting
that you can’t help but admire them for it. Last weekend I had an in-depth discussion on said topic of hipsterism with friends, wherein we discussed definitions and terminology, and critiqued its merits and flaws. We did so with a strange detachment that eventually rendered our discussion hypocritical, given that at least half of us had shamelessly donned white cotton tees and form-fitting legwear in a myriad of colours, and that we were eating homemade French toast on a porch bathed in morning sunlight in an instagram-worthy manner. Love or hate them, say what you will about hipsters, but Indie music, the not-so-subtle loudspeaker of their culture and their choice method of propagating their doctrines to the masses, has made the music world a better place. And of their ilk of sonic-preachers, few can lay claim to the genius and inspiration that is Savoir Adore.
Upon first listen of the Brooklyn duo’s sophomore release, it becomes obvious that they are a pair with eclectic tastes, and this is depicted vividly in their refreshing blend of indie pop and folk with an infusion of electronica. They would go so far as to shock with their opening track Dreamers
, with 80s funk guitar riding effortlessly over fuzzy bass beats, but it unfurls slowly over the album that Savoir Adore are not here to prove themselves musicians but artists. The fact that they ensure that nothing in particular takes centerstage may be attributed at least partly to that, and, as such, to them the subtleties in each track are as important and thus note-worthy as the melody or the foreground beat.
And my goodness, it is an incredible blend of subtleties that forms the base of Savoir Adore’s second escapade into the art-pop world, and what depth
it gives their work. Songs in Our Nature
are jam-packed with little nuances but never ever feel over-crowded; the selective minimalism employed allows each track to breathe in the vast soundscapes crafted for it. This desirable state of affairs is largely due to that which, for lack of better descriptive ability, I find myself being forced to call the “phantom instrument” effect. Employed most famously in the lush sound of My Bloody Valentine is the isolated, staticky hi-distortion guitar in overdrive, downplayed and assimilated perfectly into the background of tracks like Imagination
and At the Same Time
, providing the bright foreground vocals and beats with a deep almost mysterious undercurrent that, as can be heard in the bridge Anywhere You Go
, wafts surprisingly close to post-rock at times. Those who appreciate such tones but feel shoegazing can be too unrelatable at times need look no further. This is contrasted starkly with the shimmering synth trebles, chiming like church bells over tracks as Sparrow
, opening Our Nature
up to the vast expanses above.
All this cools on the backburner, leaving the album topped lightly by cutesy vocals and quirky electronics with just the right amount of pop sensibilities to keep it light without sounding banal. Our Nature
benefits greatly from the chemistry between Muro and Hammer. Over crystalline production, delicious melodies are delivered by a songstress with a velvety-sweet voice, accompanied at times by a dreamy McCartney-esque light tenor, the combination of which drifts listeners off gently into a soothing state. Their influences are on full display here - the chorus of titular track Our Nature
with its psychedelic feel could have been an excerpt from Abbey Road
, the vocals of Regalia
would have done Vitamin C and/or the Spice Girls proud, and the slow-burning Wild Davie
visits a sound frequented by the likes of Mazzy Star.
Good Indie music, which strives to be outstanding without sounding kitsch, is often a delicate balancing act; too much of anything would tip the scales towards the overbearing, while a lack of innovation would cause the work to slip precariously close to convention. Our Nature
finds the band straddling the midpoint of this fragile balance with impressive consistency. The band is unafraid to push the energy levels at appropriate times, as they do with the surging fuzzy riffs on the tail-end of the chorus of Loveliest Creature
. Yet they know exactly when to back off and let less be more, as they do in the absolutely gorgeous Empire of Light
, where the climatic progression of the pre-chorus is followed so unexpectedly with resplendent delay-soaked notes that fall delicately like a drizzle on an exquisite harmony, making it by far my favourite track off the album.
is awe-inspiring in the most literal sense of the world; it calls forth from within its minute intricacy and expansive atmosphere a world vast and beautiful, but confusing and even unnerving at times - overall, a sense of the mystical pervades their brand of accessible pop, making it all the more intriguing. Perhaps I’m going out on a limb here, but if intentional, this would have been Savoir Adore’s greatest triumph: that their album, titled after nature, so aptly depicts through sound all of creation by conjouring that inexplicable blend of familiarity and fear so commonly associated to a face-to-face encounter with the sheer wonder of nature. In essence, Our Nature
, apart from being one of the most interesting Indie albums I’ve ever had the fortune of listening to, is also an excellent sonic caricature of divine creation in all its majesty. Not bad for a bunch of hipsters.