Review Summary: You’ll get what’s coming to you
From the opening blips of the titular opener of Algiers’ latest album “There Is No Year,”, the listener can hear a discernible lack of propulsion compared to the opener of their previous release, The Underside of Power
. While there’s an impressive electronic pulse that drives through the song from start to finish, it’s hardly the rabid rallying cry that was “Walk Like a Panther," a howling mish-mash of gospel, trap, industrial, and post-punk. This uncomfortable comparison is only worsened by There Is No Year
’s following track and lead single, “Dispossession,” which falls into an uncanny valley of mirroring “Panther”’s vocal melody and structure on several occasions, exhibiting a serious lack of passion even when its destructive bridge only
threatens to finally transcend itself.
The easy explanation of the enthusiastic disparity between the songs is that the former was recorded in the wake of Trump’s election, a severe blow to many marginalized communities in the United States that many saw as an embrace of the most intolerent, unsympathetic aspects of America. Viewed through this highly reactionary lens, it serves as a compelling argument to “Panther”, and the rest of the album’s, fury. One could only wonder what unbridled anger might have been festering at the heart of the band three years into his presidency.
Yet, here we are. Overall, There Is No Year
acts from a place of weathered dysfunction than a raging fire. Rather than fanning the fires of revolution as before, There Is No Year
focuses more on trying to make sense of the world that remains. It no longer pushes the edges of the band’s established sound, but rests comfortably within their treasure trove of ideas. The aforementioned electronic emphasis marks the album out from its predecessors, creating a layered soundscape that requires multiple listens to fully crack, even if it lacks the burning immediacy of previous works.
While there is some fault in this sonic timidity, Algiers’ core sound remains invigorating, and so once the initial shock is over, the album reveals a comforting depth. There’s an emotional scope that was eclipsed by previous albums’ adventurousness, and listeners that prize the former aspect of music will likely enjoy this better. Franklin James Fisher’s vocals are still a triumph, merging the band’s deft skill with an exciting banter, and the songwriting remains solid and trustworthy, if not as engaging as before. In tracks like “Losing Is Ours” and “Repeating Night,” the listener will find unnerving, incredible pieces that will creep under their skin.
So this is all to say that it’s not to say that this album is completely without surprises. As when the climaxes do come, such as on “Chaka” or “Nothing Bloomed,” the album feels redeemed. These moments put the slower moments in context in a satisfying and exciting way, one that rewards the listener rather than testing their patience. At its core, this an album that’s rooted in hope, in reassurance rather than anger. One concerned with burning so hot for so long that it might fizzle out, aiming for something softer this time. There is nothing as rip-roaring or furious as “Walk Like a Panther” but it makes its point just as effectively in its own way, it simply depends on how you like your anger served—hot, or like an ice-cold dagger. Algiers has made the decision that more anger is not what its audience needs, but rather the understanding we’ll get the light at the end of the tunnel that’s coming for us. Whether we fight for it or not.