Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
Recurring and subscribing readers of the Independent Spotlight may very well already be familiar with Those Shadow People, an eclectic indie rock outfit from Denver that we’ve showcased twice in the past. The last time we explored their work was in February when they released ‘Light Siphon.’ Now, they’re back with a new endeavor entitled ‘Twenty Years.’ Does it stack up to their previous work? The bar is quite high, after all. Let’s delve into it and find out.
Before listening to ‘Twenty Years,’ I first decided to read the comic included with the collection. As per usual, Those Shadow People have included a short twenty-four page comic with their release. The companion piece, as I had hoped, is one of their finest yet. The art is absolutely beautiful, and the peculiar story of the group known as “Those Shadow People” remains a fascinating one to unwind.
The title of the EP, ‘Twenty Years,’ is a reference to Sarah, a character in the comic attempting to stay off the radar with her father, Dr. Saber, in the New Mexican desert. She hasn’t seen her mother in twenty years since she’s been occupying a dimension of sorts called ‘The Shadow Realm.’ That is soon to change, however, as Sarah presses her father to help her connect with her mother.
The first track on ‘Twenty Years,’ ‘Let You Go,’ is an explosion of everything that Those Shadow People has always excelled at. The music is chock-full of well-organized synthesizers, compelling percussion, and thick, funky bass lines. The soulful lyricism and vocal delivery of ‘Let You Go’ is astoundingly good, too, and I love the ethereal atmosphere Those Shadow People have crafted on the song.
The surreal sonic imagery of ‘Twenty Years’ extends past ‘Let You Go’ as well, most certainly occupying ‘The Last Time,’ a heavily reverberated jaunt through some of Those Shadow People’s most razor sharp composition. ‘The Last Time’ may very well be one of the very best tracks they’ve ever put out. Musically, it’s a roller coaster, one that’s reminiscent of, perhaps, Josh Homme’s compositional style on the last Queens of the Stone Age album, ‘Like Clockwork.’
At this point, it’s also worth noting that I re-read the comic while listening to the EP. I’d recommend doing this as well. There’s something about the aural quality of the music that enhances the visual experience of the comic. No matter where you’re at in the comic, the music on ‘Twenty Years’ feels somehow relevant to what’s happening in it. It’s like having a “scored” reading experience, if you will, and it’s absolutely intriguing.
‘The Machine’ a slightly more experimental track, toying with psychedelic and funk stylings. In some ways, it feels like a tune off the cutting room floor of a Flaming Lips session. It may be a less digestible experience than its two predecessors, but it’s also short, snappy, and musically to the point. Considering a much softer, more elongated track follows, ‘The Machine’ is a well placed piece of music in the sequence of the EP.
That longer piece is the title track, ‘Twenty Years.’ Of any of the tracks, this is the one that feels most like an aforementioned “score.” It’s entirely instrumental, focusing itself around whooshing synthesizers, waterfalls of electric guitar riffs, and minimalistic piano noodles. In truth, it’s probably much longer than it needs to be. There isn’t enough musical variety throughout ‘Twenty Years’ (the song) to fully justify a near six minute run-time. With that said, it is easy-listening and that time passes nicely.
‘Can’t Come Back’ is a track that I imagine would be playing as Sarah falls through the Stargate-esque portal toward her mother in The Shadow Realm. There’s a definite sense of finality to the track, as it concludes the album and this latest entry in the comic book’s story. Does this mean Sarah can’t come back from The Shadow Realm? What becomes of her father, and how will she react to finally seeing her mother after two decades?
Needless to say, ‘Twenty Years’ leaves you on your toes in anticipation for the next ‘Shadow People’ entry. I adore this band’s creative culmination of visual and aural artistry. It makes them, to this day, one of the most fantastic acts showcased here on the Independent Spotlight. ‘Twenty Years’ is due out Wednesday, October 26, so be sure to pick it up. It’s worth having in your collection.