The Drums’ third album showcases a band that, despite rapidly losing members, is finding an impressive potency and maturity as they grow into indie elder statesmen. Adam Terris listens to a true album of the year contender.
Three years can be a long time in music, especially when you manage to lose a member of your band along the way. Yet despite now being a two piece, The Drums seem to like a challenge – and listening to their third album Encyclopaedia, it seems their best music is written in the face of adversity.
The Drums’ self-titled debut album was good, but it was not until their second effort, Portomento, that their music took on an impressive maturity. Encyclopedia refines their sound even further. The lyrics are deep, even tragic at times, making their newest attempt quite possibly their finest.
‘Magic Mountain’, the album’s lead single, is still close to their familiar beach pop, indie sound, but it’s on second single ‘I Can’t Pretend’ that we see them from a new perspective. By their own admission, this is the most honest song they have ever written and was the catalyst that sparked the creation of Encyclopedia. Pierce’s stark admission that ‘it’s too hard to begin when you know it will end’ is echoed not only throughout this song, but through the heart of the album. ‘I Can’t Pretend’ still includes the catchy, pop aspect of The Drums music, with its climactic ‘I see us high,/High on a mountain/I see us die,/Dying on a mountain’, but it doesn’t take anything away from the new profundity of the message.
The two slower songs on the album, ‘I Hope Time Doesn’t Change Him’ and ‘Wild Geese’, are so much more clear cut and relatable thanks to a more mature, refined sound on the album. The subject matter is not necessarily new. Struggles with sexuality is certainly something that Pierce and co. have written about in the past, but ‘Wild Geese’ (‘Like the wild geese, that fly through the thunder’), written by co-member Jacob Graham, discusses growing up with these issues in a backward town that can’t possibly understand such problems.
Even the bounciest song on the album, ‘Kiss Me Again’, is much more refined and mature. The layering on the track helps to create a really quite catchy pop song, something that they have always been good at, but the harmonies that Pierce creates are really something that can appeal to everyone.
Later in the album comes ‘Let Me’, ‘Face of God’ and ‘There is Nothing Left’, songs which somehow maintain The Drums familiar sound and yet offer a pace and energy rarely seen from them. Whether it’s the simplistic synth riffs or just the uniqueness of Pierce’s high-pitched harmonies, it is clear the band have built upon the progress made over their two previous albums to create new, relevant songs whilst successfully adapting their sound.
The Drums are cementing their place as one of the fine wines or vintage cheeses of music: just getting better with age. The maturity and relevance of their music comes into its own on Encyclopedia, creating a tragically poetic, poppy and memorable LP.