Review Summary: A remarkable ray of light as we wave goodbye to a dark 2020, pg.lost set themselves a new marker.
For fans of the band, it has been four nerve-wracking years wondering whether pg.lost's next record can lift the band out of a bit of a rut, not to mention years of radio silence and the added financial pressures caused by the coronavirus pandemic throwing the future of many bands into disquiet. Previous records 'Key' and 'Versus' are both solid in their own right, but they had more than a whiff of stagnation about them, as if the band were searching for a new and darker identity but not being altogether comfortable on their journey towards that goal. The imprint left by these records faded all too quickly. With 'Oscillate', pg.lost have set a new marker for themselves and exorcised the spectre of their debut.
The title track kicks off the record in fine style, with deliberate and brooding arpeggio layers building to a thunderous climax and Martin Hjertstedt's pounding drums sitting perfectly in the mix alongside Kristian Karlsson's full-fat bass tone. Pg.lost have always produced their records immaculately, in their own studio no less, but with 'Oscillate' they have backed up their studio know-how with a songwriting strength not seen since 2008's excellent 'It's Not Me, It's You!'.
I'm keen at this point not to fall into the track-by-track review style, so instead I'll move on to the pacing and layout of 'Oscillate' which is damn near perfect. A prior criticism of the band would be the occasional slow and meandering passages that lack a solid foundation to back up the building suspense; with the eventual pay-off not being worth the time invested. In the case of 'Oscillate' you have introspective tracks like 'Waves' bookended by the cinematic 'Suffering' and the absolute melt-face headbanger that is 'Eraser'. It's an immensely satisfying trifecta to listen to and shows the confidence the band had in their own ideas, despite having to share many compositional thoughts and recordings via zoom rehearsals.
A key identifier for the band has always been the emotive and lyricless vocals of Kristian Karlsson, used as an added instrumental layer throughout their discography, though sadly lacking on their previous record, 'Versus'. Happily, they make a strong and compelling return on 'Oscillate' and correlate with the strongest tracks on the record. Kristian's vocals elevate 'Shelter' to dizzying heights as the track soars to its conclusion, while the stunning album closer 'The Headless Man' has notable parallels to Mew's 'Comforting Sounds', enlivening the listener with its tear-jerking final chorus.
Without wanting to sound too cliché with the darkness of the pandemic and the events of our world in general, I feel pg.lost have released 'Oscillate' at just the right time. This year has been shrouded in uncertainty and personal loss for so many and, at times, it makes you wonder what disaster could come next and whether we have the stomach to handle it. The meaning of oscillate though, is to swing back and forth, and we're all well overdue a swing to something a little brighter.
Here's to a better 2021, Sputnikmusic.