Their fourth studio album and second for LA based label Sargent House, And So I Watch You From Afar’s Heirs is, of course, teeming with the kind of complex, post-rock and math-rock arrangements that the band have been refining for nearly ten years now. The thing is, compared to their last full-length effort All Hail Bright Futures, which was arguably over-refined, Heirs finds the experimental north coast crew settling once more, and deeper still, into a more organic, reflective mode. Whereas that had a distinctively high-polished sheen, this takes command of the angular, mechanical components that they built their first two albums upon, and the approach has worked incredibly well.
‘Run Home’ in fact, the opening track on the album, is a near perfect representation of this approach, and of the album as a whole. It’s biting and visceral at times and its syncopated guitar lines are percussive enough, but not overshadowed by the gasp-for-breath, complicated drum accompaniments. The ethereal refrains fit perfectly too, offering the listener an opportunity to both enjoy the atmospherics and anticipate when the next aural assault is due. It’s this formula that ensures the album runs so well overall. ‘These Secret Things I Know’ and the intensity of the hooks, the insistent vocals (with lyrics, nonetheless) and the challenging rhythmical shifts portray the classic tropes of the ASIWYFA sound but offer something more inviting. There’s evolution at play, and it’s clear from the get-go that the inclusion of a more conventional vocal style was a comfortable decision for the band; see ‘Redesigned A Million Times’ for more evidence.
Otherwise, there’s a more ambient element to some of the tracks; not a departure from the heavier work per se, but an interesting dynamic to some of the arrangements that foregrounds mood and timbre over virtuoso, instrumental interplay. ‘People Not Sleeping’ for instance is acid-washed, grooving and melodically compelling. It’s brash, but not overtly aiming for the shock factor. It’s simply a surprisingly satisfying track that is more than the sum of its parts. Listen to it and you can be guaranteed you’ll feel taken aback in the best possible way. ‘A Beacon, A Compass, An Anchor’ works with similar effect but with a choral chant that will echo long after the music stops.
Title track ‘Heirs’, though. “Oh, my,” you’ll say. And you’d be correct. The longest, most epically delivered sonic treat on the album, ‘Heirs’ contains nearly a decade of what ASIWYFA have been building, and it’s a testament to the unflinching nature of their vision. It’s loud, deep and unravels over the course of 7 minutes and 31 seconds, exposing the bare bones of melody, rhythm and the aptitude for compositional experimentation the guys clearly have.
Heirs is, in a word, huge. Everything about it is huge. Presumably, the album sales and crowds on their extensive European and North American tour will be too. And why shouldn’t they be? Heirs merits these things and more.