Album Review: The Drums—“Encyclopedia”

By Jessa Evenden

If you’ve ever searched 8tracks for #indie and #summer, The Drums’ popular 2010 single “Let’s Go Surfing” has probably popped up. After a three-year silence, the band’s newest music is a significant change from the summery, idyllic, and handclap-heavy sound of their first two albums. Encyclopedia is a darker and deeper take — exactly the type of music you can expect from a band that spent the last several years on the brink of a breakup and citing creative differences.

With their lineup shuffled dramatically (guitarist Adam Kessler left the band in September of 2010, and drummer Connor Hanwick in late 2012), remaining members Jonathan Pierce and Jacob Graham have created a new sound for a reinvented band. The Drums recently walked Drowned in Sound through their album, and Pierce stated that that he initially wanted their music to sound like “a garbage can,” while Graham was more interested in something akin to “The Sound of Music” in combination with Japanese synth-pop. These contrasting visions for their new music could have easily resulted in a disjointed and unpleasant listening experience, but the duo fuse these stylistic differences into an album that’s charmingly heavy with artistic turmoil, albeit a little bit lighter on the upbeat, people-pleasing hooks.

Upon first listen, the only track that doesn’t feel particularly cohesive is their first single “Magic Mountain,” during which Pierce struggles to be heard over ricocheting guitar riffs and explosive synth beats. “Magic Mountain” is leaking frustration and aggression, the kind of tune you could play after a particularly shitty day. After a disappointing and jarring first single, the rest of the album becomes a warm melting pot made up of equal parts musical exploration and familiar charisma. It’s almost as if Encyclopedia is acting as a metaphorical stretching-of-legs for Pierce and Graham – a musical catharsis after years battling a tense and uncomfortable working environment with their former band mates.

Album art for Encyclopedia.

Album art for Encyclopedia.

Lyrically, Encyclopedia sounds much like a romantic break-up album, since it very nearly is. Highlights such as “I Can’t Pretend” and “There Is Nothing Left” are reminiscent of film that doesn’t even exist – the atmospheric offspring of 2010’s coming-of-age drama Submarine and 1989’s cult-classic Heathers. Encapsulating the spirit of youthful abandon and recklessness, The Drums sound like angst-ridden teenagers in the most appealing way possible. My personal favourite tracks include “Kiss Me Again,” a danceable tune that is perfectly representative of the giddy eagerness the title suggests, and “Break My Heart,” during which a special brand of relatable and romantic masochism is exercised in the lyrics, “break my heart, break my heart/break it and make it hurt.

After listening to this album, it is easy to forget that The Drums were once slated to be ‘the next big thing,’ but that might be precisely the intent. After taking complete control over their music, The Drums were able to take Encyclopedia in a new direction without interference, experimenting with sounds and instruments that make their new tracks as big and adventurous as their freshly renewed spirits. (Minor)

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