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With two well received LPs behind them already, The Jezabels smash it out of the ballpark with their third studio album, Synthia. This time round they set out to create an 80s synth-pop influenced epic that explores, criticises and celebrates concepts of women and femininity in the music industry.
The Jezabels are back and they are on fire with album number three Synthia. A powerhouse of an album, it’s an interesting new chapter for the band.
With this album the band seems to have strayed form their usual approach, utilising synths and digital drum sounds much more than in their previous work. Yet this comes as no real surprise as we’ve seen plenty of other Australian bands over the past year make the same move towards electronic sounds (take Tame Impala for example).
Lead singer Hayley Mary says that keyboardist Heather Shannon “Had a couple of new synthesisers, so a lot of ideas were coming from her.” As a result, the writing process revolved heavily around the addition of these new keyboards and the rest of the band would “build the songs around them.”
This is certainly the case on Come Alive, the first single off aptly named Synthia. It begins with an arpeggiated synth pattern continuously repeated over and over until distorted guitar comes in playing the same rhythm. This creates a mysterious and tense vibe when coupled with Mary’s low-key singing with lyrics like these: “Gather round, all you young, heed my warning / When you’re young, and you’re lovely, there are voices / That pull down, like somebody, inside us.”
However, there’s a solid change of pace when the chorus comes is. The vocals become much more melodic, spacey-synths are added and there is an overall change to the tone. Yet, there is not much savouring of this moment as the original beat comes back in heavier than before and the song continues to build up bigger and bigger until a climatic bridge with powerful drum hits and heavy guitar thrashing under Mary’s dramatic singing.
Winding back for a minute, we need to talk about the opening track Stand and Deliver. It washes over you like a sonic wave of dream-pop joy. The general vibe of this seven-and-a-half-minute epic is bright and atmospheric, sounding almost like something you’d expect from Beach House. Then Hayley Mary comes in with an effect-heavy spoken word verse that she uses throughout the song until the climatic ending where she belts out some very powerful and dramatic lines.
In this song you’re also introduced to the brilliant drumming of Nik Kaloper who doesn’t let you down throughout the whole album. Lachlan Mitchell (who returned to help produce the new album after successfully doing so on The Jezabels’ first album Prisoner) describes Kaloper as “The guy that gives all the power and intricacy. He’s always time-shifting, thinking up new parts to suit the big picture.” Personally, I felt that the drumming was one of my favourite parts of the album, with Kaloper coming up with something new and different, not only in every song, but in almost every segment of each song.
By far the best track off the album is Pleasure Drive which is the most unique sounding compared to all the others songs on Synthia. It opens with a killer syncopated, crunchy synth rhythm which is overlaid with distorted bass and a solid drum beat. At the core, Pleasure Drive feels like an old-skool rock song you’d blast on the radio driving down Route 66 (possibly on the run from the law). Then the band mixes it up a little by adding a catchy chorus that would be hella fun to sing along to live before taking you right back to the smooth, original beat.
Overall, Synthia is a very well put together and enjoyable album that shows that the band has grown. Hayley Mary’s vocal performance and lyrics are on point and can only be reinforced by provocative and intricate instrumentals, something the band have achieved with ease. This is a great album to kick off 2016 and I hope to hear it all over the radio.
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