The musical relationship of four skilled artists makes up the focal point of Skyfactor’s new album A Thousand Sounds, which pits vocalist Bob Ziegler and guitarist Jon Rubin’s harmonies against the grinding reverberation of texture created by bassist Cliff Rubin and drummer Jason Taylor. The audiological battle begins in the record’s title track, a romantic thriller that features Ziegler channeling the solid melodies of rock n’ roll’s past through a contemporary filtration generated by Jon Rubin’s riffing. Rubin’s brother dispatches whirring basslines that fight for center stage in “Long Way to Go” and “Better for the Moment,” and they’re aided by the tension in Taylor’s drumming. Together the band is creating discord and sonic chaos that is gorgeously layered into a symphony of pop magic, and trying to evade its gripping tonality proves futile by the time we reach the fourth track.
“The Whole World’s Here” is a great example of Ziegler’s lyricism tugging at our heartstrings without the assistance of the backing band, but this track isn’t a throwaway performance from the Rubin brothers and Taylor. Our attention is constantly drawn to Ziegler’s serenading, but the Rubins exchange string jabs in the foreground that are just as intriguing and accessible when examined closely. Taylor’s drumming becomes more relaxed as we transition to “Lost at Sea” and gets a little jazzy in “What We Had.” “What We Had” highlights the nimbleness that he and Cliff Rubin can discharge when the pace is slowed down, while “Run Away” is concentrated more on the placement of their texture beside Ziegler’s steamy singing.
The rhythm of both “Stay Dear” and “New Day” is understated, and when juxtaposed with the song “Damn the Remote” their surrealism becomes impossible for us to dismiss. “Damn the Remote” flirts hard with country music, and it isn’t the only instance that we find in A Thousand Sounds. The title track and “What We Had” also feel like homages to Americana in certain spots, but they’re much more focused on mammoth melodies than they are evocative imagery. Even with the absence of drums in “Hoboken Lullaby,” the tempo is vivacious and heavy. Regret, contemplation and self-realization are all essential themes in A Thousand Sounds, and ironically I think the music communicates their message even more thoroughly than the powerful words do.
This is a huge moment for Skyfactor, and it comes during a very volatile period in the history of pop music. Perhaps reflective of the modern times we’re living in, A Thousand Soundsshies away from the boxy conformities of traditional pop but retains all of the sentimental mechanics of the genre just the same. Over the course of eleven songs we come across content that is brooding, reverent, sardonic and occasionally even austere, but all of the music is held together by the passionate play of Skyfactor. This record is a symbolic milestone for the band, and instead of simply expanding the sound of their last LP Signal Strength, they reimagine their style and put all the emphasis on their individual talents to make an album that perfectly encapsulates their intellectually stimulating music and collective charisma as a group.