New Zealand indie pop group The Chills has been around for ages, yet there’s still no end in sight for Martin Phillipps and crew, who released their eighth studio album Scatterbrain in 2021. This is a record filled with grand ideas and grander themes, Phillipps touches on the band’s longevity as well as a somber reflection on our inevitable end and the legacies we leave behind. Even though these are hook-filled pop tunes, the instrumentation reaches on to greater heights, with keys, strings and vocal harmonies that soar along with to match the larger-than-life ideas in this record.
Scatterbrain opens with “Monolith”, which is a prayer that references esoteric pagan practices. “Give me the power of ancient stones, honor the monolith”, Phillipps alludes to the fact that they’re still going strong since the 80’s. Musing on how the band has gone through numerous challenges over the years yet they still remain triumphant as a unit. “Hourglass” and “Destiny” follow with a reflection of our time here on earth and how we breeze through or crumble through its weight. With wondrous melodies and a flair for the theatrical, these songs are sure to rouse the same reflections to its listeners. Thankfully, most of these compositions are gentle and comforting instead of stadium-rock level loud. Which lends itself well to quiet afternoons pondering over a cup of warm tea.
They’ve even added a song dedicated to this exact feeling in “Safe and Sound.” In it Phillips flips over the idea of staying at home (a thing we’ve done too much lately) into something cozy and inviting. As even though the world around us is in turmoil, the best thing we can do is stay safe.
This respite is then followed by the boldest track in the record “Worlds Within Worlds”. One that explores the vastness and possibilities in the universe with thunderous jangle and triumphant horns. A song that inspires us to reach new heights, an invitation to optimism in a growingly cynical world. The title track follows on an odd and ominous tangent, before concluding in a synth celebration in “The Walls Beyond Abandon”. One that urges us to escape the walls that are trying to lock us in, to find our true purpose and flourish.
Scatterbrain is anything but, it is a victorious album for a band who has been through it all and still remains standing. A celebration of greatness and an inspiration for our times.