The Jezabels
Synthia


4.5
superb

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
February 4th, 2016 | 255 replies


Release Date: 2016 | Tracklist

Review Summary: What’s a girl to do, standing in the spotlight?

Of the many things that Synthia is, it might best be characterized as bold. It’s bold to start an album off with a nearly eight minute epic that is a complete stylistic departure from anything the band has done before. It’s bold to follow that up with a schizophrenic, over-the-top pop song. That’s fine though, because The Jezabels are in the perfect position to take big chances. Their debut album Prisoner blew onto everyone’s radar with deceptive force and an undeniable alt-rock sway, while The Brink followed that up with sweet-spot romanticism washed over in retro-80s glaze. The thing that both albums had in common was their unwavering quality, and judging by Synthia, that is going to be a permanent trait with this band. Like all truly great artists, it seems that The Jezabels are not content to remain still – and with their third full length release, they’ve evolved into the best version of themselves that we’ve ever heard.

Synthia wouldn’t reach the heights that it does without its weird, brilliant, and intoxicatingly off-kilter opening sequence. It all begins with ‘Stand and Deliver’, which is hands-down the strangest and most compelling piece this band has composed. Riding in on glistening electronic keystrokes, it gradually increases in tempo while building towards Hayley Mary’s gorgeous, spoken-word introduction. The more the song unravels, the more an undercutting bitterness starts to reveal itself as Hayley beckons “come and give a bitch a kiss” during a precursor to a choral, almost operatic chant. It’s the first of many moments on Synthia in which you can tell that something has gotten under her skin, as we later witness more plainly during ‘Smile.’ The back portion of ‘Stand and Deliver’ ascends into a cloud of percussive ferocity, overshadowing the splashes of electric guitar that one can lightly make out in the background before it all comes crashing back down to earth on a pillow of softly sung verses. The range in both style and intensity is a thing of beauty, and The Jezabels are just getting started.

‘My Love is My Disease’ and ‘Smile’ seemingly go hand-in-hand, even though they’re polar opposites. The former sounds like a grandiose, sarcastic celebration – and it unsurprisingly has the most memorable chorus on the entire album. The latter is more subdued but substantially deeper, delving into some of the nitty-gritty aspects of feminism in 2016: “you can whistle at me on the street where I am walking”, “I got my problems just like anybody else does / but I may not look as whoopty-fucking-doo as you may like”, and – most notably – “don’t tell me to smile, when for all you know I just buried my mother.” It doesn’t feel like a biting societal indictment so much as it does a purgative release of individual frustration; although it’s clear that the two aren’t that far apart. By the time the first three tracks have passed into the rearview mirror, the ambition and manic to-and-fro of Synthia is on full display.

While the record’s midsection and back end don’t summon as much attention as the frenzied opening trifecta, it’s far from a front-loaded affair. The tempo takes a clear downshift, delving into deeply personal and often brooding slow-burners. ‘Come Alive’ is the most notable of the bunch, spinning up a sinister groove that emanates from superb drum-bass interplay. It’s almost in the Florence + The Machine arena: dark in nature, densely atmospheric, but ultimately uplifting. The latter trait comes when Hayley erupts into a downright stunning, angel-pitched chorus. Her voice is gorgeously breathy, like a wispy draft that finds its way through a window crack to send a shiver up the back of your neck. It’s a crescendo that’s quite unlike anything else on Synthia, marking a clear highlight amidst countless other notable moments. There’s also no way to ignore the simplistic beauty present on ‘Flowers In The Attic’ – a track that has all the tell-tale signs of becoming a fan-favorite ballad. It is Hayley Mary’s strongest vocal performance on this album, maybe since ‘No Country’, and perhaps even ever. There are gorgeous allusions and metaphors abound (“like flowers in the attic – I never meant to let you down”) atop strings that swell with the sorrow of forlorn, black and white memories. When contrasting these sprawling, moodily heartfelt ballads with the ambitious experimentation heard at the record’s outset, there’s no discernable winner – well, other than The Jezabels, who can seemingly do no wrong.

Synthia was the best possible move The Jezabels could have made following two uniquely successful albums. On the towering opener ‘Stand and Deliver’, Hayley Mary poses the question “what’s a girl to do, standing in the spotlight?” It’s an appropriate question given her circumstances, and in Synthia we receive a response better than any half-clever thing that I could have concocted from a writing standpoint. The answer isn’t to try to live up to past successes, as that only ever leads to disappointment. The Jezabels wouldn’t have made a Prisoner better than the original, nor could they have created The Brink: Part II with identical lasting appeal. It is, and has always been, about keeping your head up and your eyes forward - after all, that’s the only path we have any say in. It’s clear that The Jezabels are making the most of that opportunity.




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user ratings (164)
Chart.
3.9
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Moderator
February 4th 2016


24597 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This is awesome.

Digging: The National - Sleep Well Beast

hamid95
February 4th 2016


435 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Can't wait to hear this. Both singles have been outrageously promising after the slight disappointment I felt with the Brink.



The Pleasure Drive chorus is euphoric.

Thanntos
February 4th 2016


336 Comments


Absolutely loved the last two LPs, but for some reason the first two single didn't really hit me at all. Hopefully the whole albums comes together for me...

SowingSeason
Moderator
February 4th 2016


24597 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

If there's going to be a part of this that people don't appreciate as much as me it will be the middle portion. A lot of slower/low energy tracks that if you don't get something out of the lyrics (or otherwise find beauty in it) there isn't much to come back for. But regardless of taste, I think people will find the 5 tracks I delved into in the review to be some of the best this band has composed.

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
February 5th 2016


16337 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I'll have to check this out.

Digging: Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Luciferian Towers

Butkuiss
February 5th 2016


4465 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Such a great band. Shame they don't play many pub shows around Sydney any more like they used to. I still have Dark Storm, She's So Hard and Prisoner on heavy replay but I feel like these guys are just never going to come out from under the shadow of those releases now. I also feel like my enjoyment of these guys is directly proportional to how much Nik gets to let loose with his drumming, which hasn't been that much of late.

RadicalEd
February 5th 2016


8500 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

From what I heard so far this is a marked improvement over the decent but unremarkable last effort.



Review is good, although I think you're reading a bit too much third wave feminism into "Smile".

Digging: Susanne Sundfor - Music For People In Trouble

henryChinaski
February 5th 2016


3860 Comments


So many good records already in 2016, damn. Will check this out asap. Nice review!

SowingSeason
Moderator
February 5th 2016


24597 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I also feel like my enjoyment of these guys is directly proportional to how much Nik gets to let loose with his drumming, which hasn't been that much of late



Yeah, this probably won't change your mind then either as the focus is more on expanding/experimenting.



From what I heard so far this is a marked improvement over the decent but unremarkable last effort.

Review is good, although I think you're reading a bit too much third wave feminism into "Smile".




Am I the only one that liked The Brink as much or more than Prisoner? (Probably). Anyway the bit on 'Smile' was just a little personal interpretation; I could be way off but it does seem to fit with the music and with what I've read about Hayley's political/societal views.



So many good records already in 2016, damn. Will check this out asap. Nice review!



Yeah, I already was really enjoying David Bowie's Blackstar, now this has grabbed my attention pretty firmly. And thanks, I wrote this in bits and pieces but it all eventually came together to (hopefully) do the record justice.

TheFantasticDangler
February 5th 2016


1716 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

took me a while to get into the brink but i love it now. took no time to get into this though, so good

Irving
Staff Reviewer
February 6th 2016


7503 Comments

Album Rating: 3.4

Whoa holyyy high score.



Need to check this out ASAP. Good job SS.

theacademy
Staff Reviewer
February 6th 2016


30674 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

lol rating is .5 too low

theacademy
Staff Reviewer
February 6th 2016


30674 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

get ready for best new music

wtferrothorn
Contributing Reviewer
February 6th 2016


5729 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Can't wait 'til this comes out. The two singles that have come out so far are gr8.

SowingSeason
Moderator
February 6th 2016


24597 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Academy approved so you know this is good

Pangea
February 6th 2016


2697 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Come Alive is good

Gyromania
February 6th 2016


22706 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

never listened to jezabels. this a good place to start?

TheFantasticDangler
February 6th 2016


1716 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Start with the EP Dark Storm

theacademy
Staff Reviewer
February 6th 2016


30674 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

gyro start with the EPs

tommygun
February 6th 2016


26674 Comments


eps were so good but have liked everything less as they've progressed

prisoner was dece and the brink gave me the shits

will have to try this out



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