When ‘Man Alive’ was released in 2010, Everything Everything’s all-encompassing sound hit all the right notes – from those with a passion for hip-hop to those who liked indie-pop and everyone in between, they quickly became one of the must-see bands of the year. The album was bursting with originality and eccentricity, with Jonathan Higgs’ falsetto soaring over the songs while also delivering some of the most puzzling and downright bizarre lines of the year. Now they release ‘Arc’, an album which promises to build on that most startling of debuts.
‘Yeah, so, um, wait a second’ begins ‘Cough Cough’ and it instantly brings back memories of the debut, there are odd time signatures, fast-paced singing, quirky keyboards, clattering drums and that inescapable hook. With elements of rap and pop, this is the track Justin Timberlake wishes he’d come back with. With repeated refrains of ‘I’m coming alive, I’m happening now’ showing the band truly do mean business. Latest single ‘Kemosabe’ follows and this harks back to ‘NASA is on Your Side’ with its wild atmospherics that are ever so gripping. Jonathan gets the opportunity to really show off his vocal range here as he sings a range of tongue twisters before hitting the listener with the memorable refrain of ‘Kemosabe, I’m alone, I am! I am alone’, after a ‘Hey’ from his enthusiastic bandmates. The fantastically named ‘Torso of the Week’ opens in trip-hop fashion but then heads off in the direction of Sparks, albeit with brooding guitars and a knowing wink as Jonathan delivers lines about treadmills, tweeting and modern life in general.
‘Duet’ appears to lean towards the sound of fellow Mancs Dutch Uncles, but also has an orchestral feel that recalls Kate Bush, especially with the addition of some stirring strings. The dual vocals of ‘I feel it coming, one step from nothing’ help the song build up pace as it heads towards the climax of ‘If it’s gonna happen, let it happen now’. It’s almost as straightforward as Everything Everything get, but still packs a hell of a punch. The band have definitely reigned themselves in more than on ‘Man Alive’ and it appears that every member of the band has been given the opportunity to showcase their unique talents this time around, Jonathan’s choral singing surrounds ‘Feet for Hands’, a Kraftwerk-like track that is also drenched in synths and drums. The infinitely confusing rhetorical questions and curious statements that leave you wanting answers are also still apparent: ‘I think I’m done with answering the phone’.
There’s an eerie and almost classical feel to ‘Undrowned’ which covers subjects including footballers’ wives, being surrounded by diamonds and a princess. Of course. And there’s a touch of Showbiz-era Muse too. Evoking the spirit of 80s New Romantics, ‘Armourland’ has the playful/mildly terrifying lines: ‘I want to take you home, take off your blindfold’… ‘The House is Dust’ is almost like two songs in one, where a marked change in sound and pace manages to turn something steady into something special as just vocals and keys end the song in glorious fashion.
Both ‘Radiant’ and ‘The Peaks’ are highly emotional, with both songs featuring a rousing quality and hearts firmly on sleeves. The album closer ‘Don’t Try’ picks up the pace to end the record on a disco note sure to get you dancing, as Jonathan states in a self-depreciating manner: ‘I know you’re waiting for a miracle, I can disappoint you’ before it drifts to a synth-laden conclusion. Where ‘Cough Cough states: ‘And that eureka moment hits you like a cop car’, you can’t help but feel that ‘Arc’ may be the moment the nation wakes up to the genius of the band.
Listen to ‘Arc’ on Spotify.