by Gordon Wilson
Mystery Jets, hailing from quirky Eel Pie Island, are not known for following convention. Their fifth album, Curve of the Earth, is a manifestation of their indefinable nature.
The album’s first single, opening track ‘Telomere’, hints at the experimental, progressive sounds that the band explore in the new album. It is a departure from the catchy 80s influenced indie pop of ‘Twenty One’ and the tight Americana-inspired sound of ‘Radlands’. It is noticeably less upbeat than their previous efforts, instead opting for a more serious and atmospheric tone.
‘Bombay Blue’ showcases the band’s versatility, swinging between a beautifully gentle verse and a distorted, crunchy chorus. Blaine Harrison’s vocal shift between these two sections compliments the distinction perfectly. ‘Midnight’s Mirror’ follows a similar pattern, with its sections of ghostly, detached vocals and rocky guitar riffs which seamlessly transition into gentle acoustic guitar, peculiar jangles and emotionally-charged vocals. A similar effect is achieved in ‘Taken by the Tide’, which ebbs and flows between the gentle melancholy of the verse and the forceful uppercut of the chorus.
‘Bubblegum’ serves as a natural evolution of the catchy tracks on ‘Twenty One’. This is certainly not new ground for Mystery Jets, but it’s difficult to complain about this standard of indie rock. A deliberate, contained build-up of subdued guitar and vocals give way to a searing synth riff just before the song’s halfway mark. Once it peaks, the momentum is carried on magnificently, refusing to relent until the triumphant outro burns itself out.
‘Blood Red Balloon’ is one of the most interesting tracks on the album, but not necessarily the best. At points the slicing guitar notes and helium vocals sound like something out of a progressive Built to Spill album – certainly not a bad thing. The unusual electro beats towards the end are strangely reminiscent of Moderat. Some interesting new sounds for the band emanate from this track, and it bodes well for future albums.
The final track, ‘The End Up’, is a fitting outro for the album. The track initially manages to sound moody and twee simultaneously – an interesting combination. About a minute in, it begins to form a mixture between something you might hear in a psychotherapist’s waiting room and a gritty Western film. Somehow, it works. The track harnesses the atmospheric energy hinted at in ‘Telomere’, layering spacy guitar over contemplative vocals to powerful effect.
Overall, the album is outstanding, and definitely worth repeated listens. Its strength lies in its variety and depth, as the band effortlessly straddle the grey areas between genres while lyrically exploring the abstract and the mundane. This versatility may also be its commercial downfall as there are few tracks that are as immediately catchy or memorable as ‘Young Love’ or ‘Someone Purer’. Regardless, Curve of the Earth marks an important crossroads for the band, an exploration for what Noel Fielding would call “the new sound.” It will be interesting to see the direction they settle on for their next album.