Artist spotlight: Everything Everything

Biting political commentary, sonic discombobulation, post apocalyptic affectations and ruminations on the purpose of life and evolution are just some of the ideas you’ll have to look forward to when diving into this week’s artist catalogue. 

Everything Everything is a UK indie, art-rock and experimental pop-rock band from Manchester that formed in late 2007. The band’s members are: main vocalist and rhythm guitarist Jonathan Higgs, bassist and vocalist Jeremy Pritchard, lead guitarist and vocalist Alex Robertshaw, drummer Michael Spearman and (recently) lead synth player Alex Niven. 

To date, the band has released four studio albums: 2010’s “Man Alive,” 2013’s “Arc,” 2015’s “Get To Heaven” and 2017’s “A Fever Dream.” 

If you were to ask me what albums best embody what Everything Everything is all about, I would say 2013’s “Arc,” and to a certain extent, 2017’s “A Fever Dream,” because both represent a honing of ideas initially pioneered on their respective preceding albums. But, let’s start at the beginning…

“Man Alive” 
Its debut, “Man Alive,” is an exploration of how technological innovation affects psychology, perceptions and interpersonal relationships, as well as some light end-of-the-world musing. Pitchfork (an online music publication) described it as “the self-absorbed musical equivalent of having 12 browsers open at the same time.”

There are heavy math-rock, synth pop, orchestral and light baroque influences melded (occasionally garishly, but in a fun way) with polyrhythmic, syncopated drum beats and non-conventional melody patterns. These come together in intricate, ever-changing instrumentation. 

The first track, “MY KZ, UR BF,” sees front-man Higgs juxtaposing the backdrop of civilian life with that of an active war zone, using the aesthetically contrived nature of relationship drama on a sitcom to subvert audience expectations by introducing harsher elements of war. 

Sometimes sitcoms are usually consciously and subconsciously used as an escape from. Other stand out tracks from this album are: “Photoshop Handsome,” “Suffragette Suffragette” and “Schoolin.”

“Arc” 
With this, the group’s sophomore effort, it airs more towards interpersonal stories. Even the grander, post-apocalyptic narratives are usually firmly rooted in the perspective of an emotive proxy, be that human or otherwise. This wider shift in perspective is also reflected in the moodier, sparser and ambient instrumentation that is a mainstay all over the record. 

If “Man Alive” is an exercise in musical absurdity and ridiculously over-the-top, then “Arc” is it’s far more relaxed, musically intimate and focused brother. Not to say the polyphonic, all-over-the-place elements of the last album are completely absent from this outing. Those elements are just more focused this time around.  

Intricate patterns revolve around one musical idea that stays relatively constant throughout the track, giving way over time to complementary subtle stings, bass lines and plucked guitar parts or piano lines bringing more texture to certain parts. 

Songs like “Aromurland,” “Cough Cough” and “Duet” are great examples of this match box of interlocking pieces form of songwriting. 

All the songs revolve around a repeating drum pattern. “Cough Cough” uses frenetic synth and guitar-picked scales to build in and out of a chorus with a heavy overall synth texture. The other two songs work back from the driving synth, and then add other instrumental pieces to it. 

The topics addressed on this album are more focused, as well, ranging from worker exploitation in “Cough Cough,” feeling alone in a failing relationship in “Kemosabe” and traditional societies’ expectations of women and the damage it can have in “Torso of the Week.”

“Get to Heaven” 
Keeping with tradition, the group’s third outing showcases an even stronger, more focused instrumental section and motif: the exploration of the psyche of belief (be that in social systems, religion, or anything). 

Considered the most generally accessible work from Everything Everything for it’s bouncier melodies and straightforward production, the instrumentation sees a marriage between best parts of the group’s earlier efforts. 

The over-the-top, garish instrumentation of “Man Alive” has been polished down to be instantly catchy and controlled. The overall moodiness of “Arc” has been stratified into smaller moments that directly reflect the mood or idea of the lyrics. 

Lyrically, we see the exploration of the philosophy of cult members and terrorists in tracks like “Fortune 500” and “President Heartbeat.” Higgs also dives into blind hero worship of certain political figures and how it parallels to the levels of devotion some people have to religious leaders in “The Wheel (Is Turning Now).” 

There are comparatively lighter tracks like “Distant Past” and “Regret.” The former hyperbolizes nostalgic longing for the past by longing to return to a post Big Bang earth, highlighting how ridiculous some nostalgia can be. The latter deals with aesthetics and interplay of regret. 

The storytelling is extremely vivid and imaginative, and the song writing is sharp. This is easily one of the band’s best albums. 

“A Fever Dream” 
With this, it’s most recent album, the band once again knocks it out of the park. Each structural element sees a focused edge once again and a significant increase in quality. 

The synth-pop is more upbeat, the rock is more polyrhythmic, the distortion is bigger, heavier and more present, the synths even more all-consuming. Most interesting, however, is the heavy Radiohead influence on more of the understated, ambient and piano tracks, like the title track and “White Whale.”

A tour-worn Higgs with a new growl takes advantage of this new vocal layer that was lightly explored in certain parts of “Get to Heaven.” The production works to compliment this and acts as the musical equivalent of a large plot of land with how spacious the dynamics are. 

The lyrical content, keeping with tradition is more pointed and direct than ever before. It calls out Ivy League insulation culture that catalysts environments for racist attitudes to be expressed freely and without challenge in the track “Ivory Tower,” and tackles the propensity for consumerism in a capitalist society to breed unchecked desire for more alongside an overall lack of awareness and ignorance in tracks like “Run The Numbers” and “Desire.” 

If you are intrigued by any of these topics and are a fan of acts like Radiohead, Animal Collective and Aphex Twin, then Everything Everything is an easy recommendation.

kbq7d@mail.umkc.edu

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