2018 has been a really amazing year for music, and Skyfactor’s A Thousand Sounds stands out as a truly emotional, authentic slab of acoustic rock n’ roll that defies categorization and evolves the sonic profile of one of New York City’s most underrated bands. Singer Bob Ziegler croons “Everytime I turn around / I get hit by a thousand sounds / Voices running through my head / Conversations that went bad” in the title track, each word branding us with a white hot intensity that is steeped in physicality but not remotely unmelodic. We get an up close and personal look at the band’s musical depth in A Thousand Sounds that is unforgivingly concise, but Skyfactor have arguably never been as forward and uninhibited as they are here. “The Whole World’s Here,” “Stay Dear” and “Long Way to Go” are more than just role players in the broad strokes of this album’s larger narrative; they’re individual stories that collectively give us a glimpse into Ziegler’s creative palate and demonstrate the growth of the band as a unit. Meticulously arranged and unafraid to exploit its most angular attributes, Skyfactor’s latest record dares to be different and goes out of its way to make a statement about its composers’ elite skillsets inside the studio.
“Run Away,” “Stay Dear” and “What We Had” might appear to the novice listener to be cut from the same cloth, but more dedicated aficionados will notice how staggeringly different they are in their decadent constructions. “Run Away” centers on guitarist Jon Rubin and uses its robotic arrangement to trap us in its groove, while “Stay Dear” and “What We Had” abuse traditional pop framework and insert a impulsivity that makes both of them more alluring than your average alternative rock songs. Drummer Jason Taylor puts on a clinic in this record but doesn’t overpower the string parts, and he gives particularly noteworthy performances in “Better for the Moment,” “Lost at Sea” and “New Day.” The players never come off as though they’re competing for our attention in A Thousand Sounds; instead they share the spotlight with each other and come together to make a powerful force to be reckoned with.
Skyfactor’s new album doesn’t reinvent acoustic rock music as we know it, but it does give it the contemporary makeover that it’s been desperately in need of. The strings are bright and shimmering, but unlike the majority of guitar-oriented rock records A Thousand Sounds isn’t dependent on virtuosic play to gets its point across to us. This is almost classical in its sterling production value, but there’s also a countrified nod to Americana that can’t be ignored either. It’s really something when you can listen to an album by a band that has been together for over ten years and not feel like they’re recycling rhythms or employing the same style of play that they did in their debut.
This LP is a testament to their enduring chemistry as a group and continued development as a team, and if they keep turning out records as enchanting as this one I don’t see their professional journey coming to an end any time soon.