Soul | Punk | Electronic
Flash back to 2017, and Algiers put their incredibly innovative soul-punk sound on the map with their second album, The Underside of Power, an album which, while I failed to listen to fully at the time, ended up really enjoying. Bearing in mind that this was technically before I found myself getting into reviewing music, I was excited for the bands next project to come along, so that I can dive straight into it.
When I noticed that a new album by Algiers was being released, it took me a little time to remember who Algiers were, as the name seemed familiar to me at that point, and it was then that I recalled The Underside of Power, and furthermore, I ended up re-listening to said project.
After this, the triumphant, high-energy, and unwavering sound that was found on The Underside of Power was what I ended up expecting (or at least hoping) to hear on their new album. To me, this was the sound of Algiers, and I wasn’t hoping for that to change too much.
The Underside of Power definitely set the bar high for whatever they had planned next, and needless to say There Is No Year had some big boots to fill. But if you, like myself, went into this album expecting that same heroic energy from their 2017 masterpiece, I suspect that you may find yourself disappointed.
My worry towards There Is No Year began when I listened to the teaser tracks, while the majority of those songs are quite solid, there definitely felt like there had been a radical shift in the bands stylistic mood. In terms of engagement, there wasn’t as much to hold on to as much as The Underside of Power. However, I absolutely loved the spoken word piece that was “Can the Sub_Bass Speak?” for the racial issues it presented so masterfully. It was by far one of the most powerful and memorable of the four tracks I listened to before the full albums release. Much to my dismay, however, that track was the only one of the four to not make it onto There Is No Year. Instead, I suspect that this track only served as one which heralded that the band had new stuff on the way, which was a true shame to realise.
But the main element of this new album I dislike is the difference in mood in comparison to The Underside of Power. Continuing from how I mentioned that the 2017 project had a high-energy and triumphant sound, There Is No Year carries quite the opposite. There is a strongly bleak nature to this project, and I greatly struggle to favour this over what I heard from them previously.
I also feel that despite mixing soul and punk so well on their last album, Algiers seem to outweigh this album with more soul than anything else, but not the exciting kind, it pains me to say. In fact, the final track, “Void”, is by far the most punk-inspired track out of all of them, which really makes it stick out glaringly. On the subject of genres, I find there to be much more of an electronic sound on this album. This I actually like, as many of the more electronic-inspired songs on this album are normally the more enjoyable ones to listen to.
But I think a song like “Dispossession” is a perfect example of how this album comes across as one that feels like something so essential is missing. This track starts off really well, but ends on such a dull and repetitive note, which really left a sour taste for me. And I feel that this is the case with many of the other tracks; none of them are fundamentally bad, but the majority of them have elements which really detract from the overall experience.
While there are a few gems to still be discovered with this album, you could say that There Is No Year has managed to fall victim to my first non-positive review of 2020. Ironically, it is really quite soulless for such a soul-inspired album. If you are someone who wanted to get into Algiers, I would much rather direct you to The Underside of Power, as I feel you will have a better time there.
Favourite Tracks: Unoccupied | We Can’t Be Found | Void
Least Favourite Track: Repeating Night