Risley is back with an uplifting sophomore album, one that tackles isolation and finding back our personal connections in Meantime Fades. The Portland four-piece were in the process of recording when the pandemic hit, and with that the pursuit of togetherness and reconnecting with what really matters to us has become a strong driving force for most of these songs. Meantime Fades is fairly genre fluid, with post-punk, indie rock and even folk Americana having an equal presence in the album. What ties their sound together is the lush guitar tapestries, the expressive drum and bass lines and thoughtful songwriting. Truly a wonderful guitar record with a strong message.
“Break the Spell” opens the album with soaring riffs and vocals wrought with great conviction. Singer/guitarist Michael Deresh urges the listener to break free from the trappings of excess, seeing many things in our modern life as “an endless empty trade for a little instant joy.” The guitars have an arena rock grandeur, but that’s merely one of the many directions the band explores in the album. Later track “Missed Connection” is what I find to be at its heart the thesis of its central conflict. It has a darker post-punk edge, with sounds fleeting between nostalgia and memory. A song full of longing and craving for a time when people weren’t so far apart.
Meantime Fades has a long runtime with great bonus tracks stretching it beyond the one hour mark, yet it never drags on due to the versatility of Risley and how they’ve paced the many styles in their arsenal. “Calico” is a rich Americana tune full of guitar and vocal harmonies that feels like home. “Fortune Cookie” is a slow-burning folk tune with guitar tapestries woven around a wistful flute. Introspective and very nostalgic, a song that muses on how time often passes us by. “Lights” is the one that surprised me the most, particularly at how much I enjoyed its radiant guitars that yell and scream with urgency. An uplifting and anthemic song about appreciating the ones we love.
Meantime Fades is a song built along our world’s current landscape, yet it doesn’t dwell on its fault. Ultimately, it is an album of hope and a triumphant second offering from Risley.