When asked what influenced the sound on Encyclopedia, Jacob Gram said he wanted the album to sound like a Disney Musical, while Jonny Pierce said he wanted it to sound like a garbage can. To take a line from Pierce, “I think you can hear a little bit of both”. Encyclopedia is the combination of tragically real lyrical prose and the instrumentation to convey Pierce’s haunting musings. Amidst turmoil with members of the band, this is the first album with the two as a duo, but the classic Drums sound is maintained and improved upon.
The album opens up with an exposé of the two’s talent on Magic Mountain, with what sounds like what a house show punk band would turn out trapped inside a real magic mountain with nothing but Chaucer and old copies of Vice, with the lyrics “Inside my magic mountain we don’t have to be with them”. Rapid and syncopated drums match harmoniously with synth and dreamy lyrics, but after this initial stand of independence, the Drums peal off the outer shell of cuffed jeans and adidas, and reveal the somber reality of the album, full of technical playing, but also an understanding of what it means to write a song that isn’t ashamed of saying what it needs to say. Pierce doesn’t try to tuck anything out of sight by admitting “So help me, because I feel you drifting. You’re drifting a little, And I’m scared” on I Hope Time Doesn’t Change Him.
Encyclopedia might initially sound like what you’d expect to find on a dream-pop album out of Brooklyn, but where it excels is its lyrical/ musical simplicity, crossed with mastery. Fear of dying, fear of leaving, yet set against a distinctly American backdrop of a band that’s started to dig deep into its own distinct niche. I feel this is conveyed clearly in U.S. National Park as Pierce sings “United States national park, I don’t wanna die alone by the campfire”.
If you came to The Drums through their 2011 release Portamento, you’ll still find the mesmerizing trance tunes full of guitar riffs, but the lack of their other two members will certainly stand out, though this is not necessarily a bad thing. It sounds almost more fitting to hear the sounds of The Drums in a more mature and reminiscent way. Encyclopedia is certainly worth a listen if you’re looking to be more concerned about your inner hopes and fears than the weather this winter.