Algiers – There Is No Year
Alternative | Post Punk | Electronica | Soul
Over the past few years Algiers have captured the zeitgeist of the dark timeline we find ourselves in perhaps more so than any other act we’ve covered. In both the fervency of their ideals and the eclectic musical backdrop that they’re set against, they embody and enflame the fighting spirit in all of us that cries out for a better world. Both of their first two albums shared the same politically charged lyricism and complex melting pot of genres.
Where they differed is that their debut was the spark, the kind of record to open your mind to new ideas and new sounds, the kind of record to make you stand up and say “damn right things need to change!”. The Underside of Power however felt more like a raging inferno of righteous fury, a wounded tiger backed into a corner at its most dangerous. Much of the nuance was lost as they vented raw anger at seeing things change for the worse rather than for the better, and the world fall even further from grace.
But where does that leave There Is No Year? It doesn’t have the same ever-building tension of the debut, and besides the fired up title track and the blistering punk of album closer ‘Void’ it doesn’t have the same energy as the follow-up either. Instead its focus is on building atmosphere, and with its greater focus on synths and electronics, and an overall more restrained approach, it does this superbly. Its “less is more” style (by Algiers standards anyway) marries a bleak gothic tone with open soundscapes to create a feeling of walking through a vast open landscape but still feeling confined and constricted by heavy chains hanging over you. Tonally There Is No Year isn’t the spark or the inferno, it is walking through the ashes. It’s the sensation of seeing the world get so bad that you feel like a stranger in a strange land, feeling your faith in the inherent good in people extinguished, feeling like the only sane man in a world gone mad.
Curiously all this works to make this the band’s most accessible work yet. In dialling things back it makes sure that it’s a lot easier to process everything on the first listen and give each element the attention it deserves. One of my biggest criticisms of The Underside of Power was a lack of diction, the vocals lost in the mix and much of the messages lost by the lyrics being hard to make out. Here however, Franklin James Fisher’s vocals are given the chance to shine and his words are shown the reverence they deserve. Both come together brilliantly on tracks like ‘Wait For The Sound’ which celebrate the band’s gospel influences.
Musically they have perfected the oppressive synth sound that dominates this record, and despite the more austere approach still manage to experiment further with some jazzy sax and interesting grooves on ‘Chaka’. There is a slight problem with pacing and the record loses its steam a little in the second half, but overall it’s another Algiers record – i.e. absolute class through and though. What really sells this record for me though is that although it feels like a very bleak setting, the band show that they still have plenty of fight left in them. It’s a moment of reflection after losing a battle, but still shows a steadfast dedication to winning the war. On album highlight ‘Dispossession’ they assert: “Seen the kings and the soldiers, On the throne they consume, Run and tell it to everybody underground, Freedom is coming soon”. It’s just the rallying call we need as we head into a new decade, and there’s no one I’d trust more to deliver it with conviction.