For the final ten days of June, I’ll be counting down the ten best albums that fell within my radar during the first half of 2016. Each day, I’ll reveal the next album on the list along with an informal review. This will lead to July 1st, a major release day for albums, when I’ll post an updated version of my Most Anticipated Albums of 2016 list. Enjoy!
#3: To Be Everywhere is To Be Nowhere by Thrice
Released May 27 by Vagrant Records
Anyone who knows me would’ve expected To Be Everywhere is To Be Nowhere, the first album in over four from my favorite band Thrice, to be a no-brainer for the #1 spot on this list. Even I expected that. In fact, I’m not sure why this fantastic reunion album isn’t my #1. Am I trying to be fair? Am I attempting to resist my own biases? Probably. Predispositions aside, this is undoubtedly a very good album, one that capitalizes on the strengths of the past five or six Thrice records. Producer Eric Palmquist has stated in interviews that, because Thrice have successfully created such a far-reaching and genre-blending back catalogue, he desired to see the band members “flex their muscles” rather than recreate their sound once again. This is accomplished successfully through most of the record, making Thrice’s 9th full length both a reintroduction to the band’s past and a bold next step into future. Coming out of Thrice’s three-year hiatus, this is really all fans could’ve hoped for. It’s enough to make the band new fans, too, as evidenced by the album’s #15 debut on the Billboard 200, the grassroots growth of radio single “Black Honey,” and the wildly large crowds attending the current tour. I haven’t yet dared to rank TBEITBN amongst the band’s discography, though friends of mine who’ve seen these songs played live think this truly might be Thrice’s greatest work. Even yet, comparisons to past albums are readily evident. These songs share the alternative immediacy and massive choruses of Major/Minor and The Artist in the Ambulance, the variety of Vheissu, the climactic endings of Beggars, and perhaps most notably a reemergence of the soundscapes and tones of The Alchemy Index. For the uninitiated, The Alchemy Index is a fan-favorite concept series of EP’s, one for each of the four classical elements. TBEITBN‘s beautiful closing number “Salt and Shadow” is a lovely synthesis of the songs “The Whaler” and “Silver Wings” from Water and Air, respectively. The chorus of “Death from Above” is almost distracting in how heavily it borrows from the Fire EP, specifically “The Arsonist,” but like every other song here, “Death” reaches such a fulfilling, heightened conclusion that any flaws en route are par for the course.
Thrice craft songs worth listening to through the end, which is especially true on the emotional knock-outs “Stay with Me” and “The Long Defeat,” the latter transitioning beautifully into the interlude “Seneca.” That title refers to Seneca the Younger, the Roman philosopher who originally stated “to be everywhere is to be nowhere” in reference to people who attempt to hold so many philosophies simultaneously that they end up knowing nothing. He’d continue by saying, “A multitude of books only gets in one’s way.” Imagine speed-reading books without a chance to linger on the meaning of a paragraph or reread a favorite novel. Imagine binge-watching conspiracy theory videos without a chance to fact-check. Or more realistically, imagine keeping in touch with thousands of friends through statuses and pictures and tweets without ever getting to sit down for a face-to-face conversation. That’s no way to read nor learn nor love, yet I’ve found myself in a similar situation this year in how I’ve been engaging with music. Throughout 2016, most albums have only received a single listen from me, even if I thought the album was great. I’ve purchased CD’s that sadly remain untouched, while any 2016 purchase has been lucky to receive more than 2-3 spins. This whole Midyear Top Ten series is a tribute to the few albums that have caught my attention enough to merit repetition, the few CD’s that have sat in the car stereo for days, that have battled against my podcast queue and demanded to be heard again and again. My love of Thrice predestined that I’d listen to this record more than I do others, but I couldn’t have known this topic of doing something right and well would be a central theme of singer Dustin Kensrue’s lyrics.
Take the time to know something well instead of trying to know everything; put in the effort to love someone well instead of trying to love everyone. On the aforementioned “Salt & Shadow,” Kensrue directs these sentiments at our hyper-social culture, singing, “You’re talking through glass, we’re just square photographs on a page. We’re never alone but we’re each in our own little cage.” On the singles “Black Honey” and the urgent rocker “Blood on the Sand,” Kensrue picks up on the political themes of Air songs “Broken Lungs” and “The Sky is Falling” to discuss how easily hatred and fear can be fueled by throwing blanket racism onto people groups and passing that unhealthy mentality down to our children. “Fear will rob you blind and make you numb to others’ suffering,” he sings on “Blood.” For the fans who stayed active during Thrice’s hiatus, something interesting to notice here is how well TBEITBN continues lyrical themes from Kensrue’s 2015 solo record Carry the Fire, while never sounding like anything except a Thrice record. Case in point is the spectacular opener “Hurricane,” with expertly veiled lyrics about marital disputes, (marriage being the major theme of Carry), while the band members “flex their muscles” like only guitarist Teppei Teranishi and rhythm section Eddie and Riley Breckenridge can, playing in the pocket and matching each other’s feel like never before. Most miraculously, the ending of “Hurricane” truly encapsulates the sound of getting lost out at sea and buried in the waves with a mastery not even the Water EP achieved. Truly, “mastery” is a term fitting of nearly everything about these eleven tracks. This album has reminded me of the value of repetitious listening; its musical layers reveal more details and meaning with each go-around. The very existence of this album is exciting, its quality is more exciting, and what’s most exciting is how Thrice have already been discussing working on LP #10.
Check out “Hurricane” on Youtube.
Read the review for album #4.