The Other Side of Life: Piano Ballads
Bayonet · November 19, 2021
Beach Fossils has stripped down eight of their previously recorded songs to soft jazz piano ballads and called it a new album. While the album feels refreshing at first, after the first couple of tracks it drags on into a long lull. The band has seemingly transformed from their hard-hitting post-punk style centered around catchy guitar riffs to the polar opposite: a jazz quartet cover group with soft vocals and sleepy piano arrangements. This drastic shift was a risky choice for the band, and while it showcases an unlikely duality that defies the constructs of genre, the band only occasionally achieves its goal of transcendent intimacy on the jazz album.
The first track “This Year” stands out as one of these occasions, with minimalist piano and acoustic bass that perfectly lifts the gentle vocals throughout the track. A heavenly saxophone solo ties the track together, oozing in and out of the soothing bass line. However, this first track’s jazz euphoria soon turns into monotony.
The album’s themes seem to focus on minimalism and draw an intensity toward lyrics that Beach Fossils has never attempted before. The eight songs are a scattered array of tracks from each of their past albums with no correlation whatsoever. This is in part what makes the songs blend together after a while, with nothing lyrically drawing the listener in as the album just stitches together random songs from past projects in a new format. The band’s new version of their hit song “Sleep Apnea” particularly highlights the lyrics, with only a simple piano arpeggio behind the vocals. In this rare case a clear visual is presented to the listener of a spiraling whirlwind of thoughts brought on by insomnia. An off-putting saxophone solo is weaved into the song as well, ensuring that everything is alright while the lyrics “I won’t lie, and tell you it’s alright” are sung.
As the album continues, it begins to fizzle into silently complex piano arrangements that remind the listener of a corny Christmas album, meant to be enjoyed next to a fire on a cold winter night. This creates an eerie and sleep-like trance capable of bringing about a long, peaceful nap. Nothing new, captivating, or enticing will keep the listener awake for the rest of this so-called “new” album.