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album review: joan of arc, life like

I must admit that Joan of Arc’s new album Life Like isn’t something I would usually listen to. Its guitar heavy riffs mixed with forced lyrics is hard to listen to at first for an Indie fanatic. But I’m certainly not against experimenting with new tastes and after a few songs, I could certainly appreciate it for what it was – an emo rock album.

Anyone who likes to be drenched in guitar solos and drum beats will most definitely like this album. However, for a band with so much experience, I didn’t see any peaks or highlights in the album. It seemed to remain stagnant and after a few songs, I became wishful that something spectacular would happen. But it didn’t.

Joan of Arc have a mountain of past recordings, beginning in 1995 and clocking up 16 records in that time. The only permanent member of the group is singer Tim Kinsella, a musician who has been part of many bands including Cap’n Jazz and The Sky Corvair. The other current members include Bobby Burg, Victor Villareal and Theo Katsaounis.

The Chicago band are known for their use of electronics, samples, and multi-track recording in their songs; but this album seems to be stripped down.

I found it mostly slow-paced for rock music though, with Kinsella’s voice often singing with only a monotonous drumbeat to accompany him. The lyrics have apocalyptic, political and existential themes but also failed to move me like they should.

I’m not trying to be overly critical of the album, however. Life Like begins with an epic 10-minute song that draws you in. It was definitely my favourite song on the album, being instrumental for the most part. ‘I Saw the Messed Binds of my Generation’ has subtle jazz inflections and varying sections to the song. However, after seven minutes of the song, Kinsella sings without musical backup, which I found out of place after the incredible instrumental prelude.

The rest of the album merges together for me, with ‘Night Life Style’ being the only other stand-out track in my opinion.

It does seem like Joan of Arc know what they wanted to achieve with this album and have pulled it off. Fans of the band will appreciate the album as they release yet another record that has undertaken a metamorphosis of sound and persona. It is decidedly their rock album and gives listeners the essence of Joan of Arc.

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