Clarke and the Himselfs latest album Pot Sounds is a brilliant gem of indie rock. Its Melodies are bright and vibrant, a collection of pastel colors swirling around a field of lo-fi grunge and grit. Although there’s a substantial amount of edginess in its 11 tracks, it maintains an optimism that ends itself well to easy listening. Even on melancholic tracks, there’s always a string of light and charm.
The album starts with “Prologue”. This whimsical rock and roll number is what you would get if you asked Sgt. Peppers to do the opening for Sesame Street. An atmosphere of high-spirited playfulness and childlike wonder. “Arrest Me” revolves around anxiety and restlessness. There’s a lot of clashing noises in the background, a mixture of overdriven guitars and harsh cymbals accentuate the feeling of indecision from its narrator, who is stuck on whether or not to end a relationship. Clarke’s voice takes an ethereal glow in “Arab Lawns”. The static droning melody of the verses along with the airy reverb and slide guitar creates a hypnotic experience. It takes you to an exotic location, with the smell of incense and unfamiliar spices.
There’s three tracks at the tail end of the album that I affectionately call the loneliness trilogy. It starts with “Maybe It’s Better”, a surf rock / power pop song with subtle synths and a laid back tempo. It suggests that sometimes, going on separate ways is the better choice. “Long Goodbye” follows with a more distant, melancholic mood. Each drum sound has a clashing quality, depicting the conflicting feelings we get when parting with someone — it may be the right call, but that doesn’t make it any easier. “Lonesome Town” narrates the aftermath, it follows our character taking a stroll through the neighborhood. Clarke leaves us pondering with the line : “There’s a place in town that’s haunted by the truth / No matter where you are it’s staring back at you.”
“Epilogue” is just as whimsical as the opening number. Simple elements are woven together to create a lighthearted composition. It’s highlights are the xylophone and organ, backed by impeccable drumming. An instrumental that waves goodbye, telling us to come back again soon, hoping we enjoyed the show.
Pot Sounds was recorded entirely in analog. Using tape machines, and with a meticulous selection of vintage amps and percussion. There must’ve been a considerable amount of time and effort poured into this project, and it definitely shows in the final product. It is a departure from Clarke and the Himselfs previous work, using a lot more elements and allowing them to shine in their own space with stellar production work. A cohesive offering that breaks old boundaries, it goes to show that with every new album Clarke keeps moving forward.
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