Review Summary: A lost 2020 gem.
Residing equidistantly between Radiohead and The National in terms of sound, it’s strange how quiet the buzz has been around Other Lives lately. Featuring a relatively underrated discography, their popularity arguably peaked with 2011’s Tamer Animals
. They followed the critical success of that record by touring with Bon Iver and S. Carey, while Thom Yorke remixed one of their songs. Oh, and then they opened for fucking Radiohead
. Since then, things have simmered a bit; although the band continues to churn out good music, it feels like they’ve reached the other side of the curve in terms of their career trajectory. Luckily some things just get better with age, and For Their Love
proves that Other Lives is one of them.
The album cover invokes feelings of thoughtful isolation. One might expect a primarily acoustic album, one full of restraint and minimalist tendencies. Instead, For Their Love
is sweeping, urgent, and romantic. The album constantly feels like it is trying to convey something that can’t wait until tomorrow, with its cinematic progression, chamber pop orchestration, and haunting vocals/guitars. It masterfully toes the line between being over-the-top and tasteful, accessing a unique space in the indiesphere that is consistently engaging without sacrificing the strength of songwriting.
There’s perhaps no better example than the run from ‘Cops’ to ‘Nites Out’ – one of the strongest four song stretches I’ve heard in recent years. ‘Cops’ is captivating with its stuttering keys, apparition-like hums, and charming chorus before turning the reins over to ‘All Eyes – For Their Love’, a towering six minutes of string-bound tension, piano-laden exhales, and subtle horns. At times it almost feels like Other Lives are on the verge of throwing too much at the listener, but every instrument and effect is gradually introduced and executed to perfection. Quieter moments and more upbeat ones ebb and flow, keeping the album fresh from front to end. Such is the case on the stunning ‘Dead Language’, a lush ballad that features ethereal backing vocals and a breathtakingly somber melody, all before bouncing back with the heart-racing drama of ‘Nites Out’, a percussion heavy track whose gushing pianos/synths almost make it feel like it should be soundtracking a spy thriller.
Impressively, Other Lives succeed uniformly even outside of this magnificent stretch. All ten songs contribute to the atmosphere, whether it’s ramping up the momentum or allowing this thing to breathe. Featuring a rather lean thirty-seven minute runtime, For Their Love
is a free flowing and easily digestible affair. Its biggest (and perhaps sole) weakness is that the lyrical ambiguity borders on non sequiturs; for something that feels
this epic, the substance holding it all up is a bit shaky. With a stronger emotional component, For Their Love
might have qualified as an instant classic. Regardless, this album is an exhilarating experience, and one that cements Other Lives as one of the better bands out there that you most likely haven’t heard.
For Their Love
is one of those albums that seems destined to become a lost gem. The band’s waning popularity but strengthening craft provided the ideal recipe, and For Their Love
seems to willingly embrace the role. This is simultaneously Other Lives’ best album and their least recognized, so dust off this superb 2020 afterthought and give it a quick spin – you’ll likely find yourself transported and transfixed.