Other Lives nearly make a classic album. As it is, its still full of interest and ambition and its very, very good indeed.
There’s no doubt there’s something to Stillwater, Oklahoma trio Other Lives, just ask endorsees Radiohead and Bon Iver, and Rituals, the bands third album, certainly has plenty of moments where their balance of the ambitious, the cinematic and the (at least previously evident) earthy folk strands pull together to make something that reminiscent of, well, Radiohead and Bon Iver I guess.
There’s other links as well, with Atoms for Peace Joey Waronker in as co-producer, and the production on the album is a stunning piece of clean, polished sound. Musically there are strong moments – the tumbling synths and soaring vocal of ‘Pattern’ is a keeper, and Beat Primal, with its mulit-layered vocals and accompaniment really hits the spot, as well as the play again button. The gentle prodding of Reconfiguration, complete with these ghostly backing vocals also shines through as an album highlight.
It’s when the band really embrace the string led chamber pop that things work best though. New Fog tumbles through this juxtaposition of rhythmically complex piano, on occasion strings, and (almost) tribal drum work, while the strings and, latterly, the brass work more homogeneously to create something that is, with the long vocal lines, akin to Swan – regal and beautiful on top, beavering away underneath. The strings are at work to good effect again with 2 Pyramids, this time swooping over the top of things, adding a glistening quality, as the band go in heavy on melody, and just dress it up in something most bands would make look garish and mutton like.
By the time album closer ‘Ritual’ comes around, with its contemplative sadness and wiry strings, Other Lives have put you through the mill – emotion, ambition, skill and craftsmanship are all evident, and point to something more expansive coming in the future. Its an album that you can go back and feast on for some time, with everything it has to offer, and with one or two more killer choruses, it would have been in the classic band. As it is, its still very good. Indeed.