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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tuesday Is For Tunes: Liars


Seasoned experimental post-rock band, Liars released Sisterworld, their fifth album, last Tuesday to growing acclaim. Any music lover, who appreciates albums as total works of conceptualized artistic expression, will have a lot of respect for this latest effort from Liars. From the album artwork to the website to the tracklist, Sisterworld has been carefully crafted to be a complete listening experience. Success!

Sisterworld sounds just like the name would imply, a bizarre parallel universe that is eerily familiar and shockingly different. Filled with dissonance, the Liars have made a series of songs that draw their audience into this new world. Slower tracks feature chamber strings in minor keys, and are immediately followed by jarring distortion tortured with electro noise. Still, these seemingly disparate sounds are unified by an overarching feeling of beautiful agony and impending doom. Angus Andrews’s vocals and lyrics hint at some story behind this aural journey. Yet, they are intriguingly cryptic, and require an attentive ear. Which is pretty perfect, because anything more blatant would only sound contrived. Similar to the instrumentals, the vocals range from funeral dirge to punk howls, and are held together by the sheer force of ominous emotion and brooding intonation. This trip of an album concludes with Too Much, Too Much, a gentler and quieter song that feels like coming out of a dark tunnel into a landscape full of diluted light. As it dissipates, I am left with the feeling that I’ve weathered a passage from the hopelessly mournful and terrifying opening track, Scissors, to different place with at least some faint possibility.

Liars have truly designed a surreal and unsettling listening experience that might be hard for passive listeners to stomach. I hesitate to describe Sisterworld as a concept album precisely, since that phrase has taken on some fairly pretentious connotations. However, it’s obvious that Liars conscientiously conceived this album with ambitious orchestration, and then expertly executed it. As mentioned earlier, their vision is even reflected in the album artwork, some of the best I’ve seen so far this year. The cover pictures tiny, ornate metal doors that you can image opening to the liner notes, which show photos of the band looking harrowed and bewildered in the woods. Walking through the forest is mentioned in the lyrics of track nine, The Overachievers, and makes me fairly sure that the other world the Liars have envisioned is a haunted woodland.

I greatly appreciate Sisterworld for its comprehensive and intense nature, and I’ve never respected Liars more as musicians. If you consider yourself to be the sort of music lover, who has eclectic tastes and a penchant for virtuosity, then I strongly recommend you give this album a solid listen. However, if your ears are more accustomed to pop standards, I’d still recommend you give this album a try, but with the warning to brace yourself for weirdness and noise. Liars are out to shock and awe.

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