Some albums seem seasonal. 808s & Heartbreak by Kanye West is a cold winter album. Most of the indie rock released around 2010 is summer beach music. We Were Promised Jetpacks newest release, Unravelling, fits its Oct. 14 release date perfectly.
It’s brooding without being too glum, dark without being morbid and ambient without ever becoming boring.
However, unless you count the band’s name, the perfectly coordinated release date is the most sublimely executed element of this album, because much like someone who was only promised a jetpack, it never really takes off.
Unraveling is not a bad album. In fact, it’s incredibly far away from being a bad album. It’s not only listenable, a handful of songs are actually compulsively re-listenable. This is a solid three-star indie rock record. When looking back at 2014 best of lists, you’ll see Unravelling in the honorable mentions section and remember it fondly.
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Unfortunately, there are hints of a much better album present on Unravelling, which sour a solid entry into a solid body of work into a slight disappointment.
Album-opener, “Safety in Numbers”, serves as a perfectly fine mission statement. It’s sleek, moody, well-crafted and just interesting enough. I love a brooding, slow-burner as much as anyone else, but it’s a damp autumn leaf smolder that never ignites.
That’s Unravelling in a nutshell. It’s technically proficient, enjoyable , mildly cerebral and fantastic at invoking a mood, but it refuses to build toward anything. In this case, it actually works to the album’s advantage, because track no.2 instantly bails out the anti-climactic opener.
“Peaks and Troughs” is an instant standout, because it actually the buzzy peak hinted at in the beginning of the song. When the song hits the three-minute mark and We Were Promised Jetpacks commit themselves to producing loud noise it feels absolutely cathartic, because more than six minutes were spent coiling before the release. The prolonged windup absolutely works.
This momentum is immediately lost on “I Keep it Composed”, which is entirely inoffensive but plodding. Eventually it gets louder in the last 30 seconds. The next song,”Peace Sign”, adheres to the exact same formula. “Night Terror” could have been the fourth best song on fellow Scotsmen, Franz Ferdinand’s, self-titled debut, and it would have made more sequential sense.
After demonstrating solid execution on an opening one-two punch, Unravelling just trots out midtempo song after midtempo song. The whole album is a very warm pot that never quite boils over, and yet track 10, “Peace of Mind” is a supremely pretty instrumental track that manages to build pressure, explode and decompress in a completely satisfactory manner.
Absolutely check out Unraveling. It’s a serviceable, highly competent example of modern rock music, but it could have been great. These individual tracks should be all over any seasonal playlists, they pair excellently with cool weather, warm coffee and changing leaves, and they work incredibly well when plucked from the frustrating mire.
Unravelling is fine, but it could have been great with just a few more moments of urgency.