What can be said about something you feel has been done a million times before? That was my initial impression when it came to White Arrow’s sophomore album “In Bardo.” I didn’t know what to make of it, how to feel about it and what angle I should approach this album, the follow-up to their 2012 debut album “Dry Land Is Not A Myth.” It was then that I discovered the secret formula to music reviews: listen to the album more than once.
At first glance, “Bardo” seems to be nothing but another indie-popified eleven-track album. I mean, all of the necessary requirements can be found here. From lead singer Mickey Schiff’s high-pitched singing to a certain fuzziness from Andrew Naeve’s lead guitar and John Paul Cabellero’s bass that lead me to the assumption this was just another band trying to ride the “Fitz and the Tantrums” b-list train to obscure popularity. You know, the place where people only recognize your one song after being commercialized to hell? (I’m looking at you, “The Walker”). But upon further investigating, White Arrows proves to be on their own path to something original.
The album opens with “I Want A Taste,” slowly enveloping you in a trance that doesn’t let go until the two-parted “God Alert.” Songs worth noting on this album (whistling not included), other than the trance-inducing “Taste,” are “Leave It Alone” and “Nobody Cares.” The former has the beach-inspired guitar riffs that backs up the psychedelic vibes and a chorus that takes over every sense you have in the best way imaginable. Credit must go to drummer Jake Nielsen’s percussions throughout the album.
“Nobody Cares” offers a bleak, isolationist look at life wrapped in lucid and trippy sound effects. Oh yeah, and the chorus is nothing but “Nobody cares” on a loop. The song, while bleak, has a message that’s worth diving into and exploring. That much can be said about this album.
That’s not to say this album is without its faults. More times than not, I found myself forgetting about the upbeat youthful pop anthem “Can’t Stop Now” and the slowed-down smoothness of “Scream” and hovering towards the gems of the record. I wished the double-parted “God Alert,” the final two tracks of the record, were moved up another slot. Why you might ask? There’s only one song from “Bardo” can I can consider the climax to this trip.
“Chill Winston” is the diamond in the rough, the unsung hero of this magical ride and your eternal reward for discovering it. Everything about this song is what pushes “Bardo” over the top and into the forefront of albums that deserve more recognition. Everything works. And that which doesn’t work only makes the song better. Nielson hammers down the perfect beat for Naeve’s powerful chorus riffs while Schiff’s lyrics bring the sad reality of a hardened drug addict to life with only “Suffering, suffering brings me truth.” This gem is staying with me for as long as it can and it will for anyone who gives it a listen.
This album isn’t perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction for a band looking to make its way in this unforgiving business. But with two albums launched and underrated songs abound, White Arrows will be a band with enough of a following to get their own “Fitz” train ride to popularity, no obscurity needed.