Post Punk Album Review: "This Perfect Day" by Architrave
Post-punk duo Architrave’s album, This Perfect Day, has shadows moving through it. It explores treacherous and hopeful emotional landscapes. There are decidedly ethereal elements to the music, but also earthier and darker depths to explore. This is an album that has a sharp, angular feel at times but is also capable of ghostly drifting and moments of warmth, but warmth tinged with melancholy.
On This Perfect Day, Architrave’s vocalist Jennifer Maher Coleman delivers the lyrics with a voice that caress or punch. She has depth and strength in her voice, but she can also create an ethereal sound that matches well with the sometimes diaphanous feeling that wash over the music.
The guitars here, whether lead or bass, have sharp clear sound and provide a strong counterpoint to the synth sounds that they exist with on the album. I especially liked the bass guitar lines because of the power that they added to the music as a whole.
In terms of synth elements, This Perfect Day crosses the spectrum from warm, drifting sounds to something much more angular and dark. There are gritty sounds as well, but all of them work well to create a tapestry that serves to support the vocals as well as provide a backdrop for the guitar sounds.
I am also enamoured of the overall production on the album. Everything sounds sharp and clear, all of the sounds are properly balanced so that no one element dominates over another and I have to say that I enjoyed the clarity of Jennifer Maher Coleman’s voice and how it sits within the mix on the album.
Now I’ll take the opportunity to talk about the tracks which most impacted me on This Perfect Day and highlight some of the factors that helped create that impact for me.
"Yellow Lines" s a track full of complex beats with guitars dancing between them. Everything in the track has a very full tone to it, filling the track. Over the top, a synth descends through drifting, minor notes and is underpinned by the beats and the bass. Jennifer Maher Coleman’s vocals have a certain ethereal quality to them.
There’s a quality of mystery, maybe even of danger in the music. The vocal float contrasts with the sharp clarity of the production and the guitar adds more depth and roundness to the music.
This is a song about the pitfalls and dangers that wait for us, as well as escape from them. The image of “crossing all the yellow lines” and swerving between them just in time to avoid disaster is added to by the great lyric line that says, “My pockets full of rusty blades/My heart is like a hot grenade.”
I was also struck by the feeling of this lyric that says, “Just when I think that I’m alone/I can feel my thoughts are not my own/I’m being chased by another’s dreams.” The feeling of disconnection from the self is quite intense here.
The use of contrasting images is also powerful in this track. We go from rusty blades and hot grenades to “the hush of the empty streets” and the “coolness of night.” Now the mood is one of dark melancholy as the song asks, “Does the coolness of the night love me?” We are warned of “sweet delusion” and “false trajectory” before the words remind us that “a straight line will take you back to your own bed/Get into your body and out of your own head.” We’re also reminded that, “This road doesn’t end, you’ll sleep when you’re dead.”
There’s a threatening feeling to the ambient background of sound that opens "If A Tree Falls." A steady clap and beat flows into the track, along with synths that almost sound like a chant. There’s a certain bleak emptiness about the track, but the lyrics are strangely hopeful, as though the idea of being cut loose of everything actually opens one to possibility.
This song opens with the lines, “Stumble down among the trees/Find yourself on hands and knees/Only you have heard the sound/No other witnesses around.”
This song speaks about freedom in the lyrics. When there’s “no one to see and no reflection” and nothing to mislead one, the words say, “You only see what you can feel/The earth and sky don’t care what’s real.”
In the midst of nature, everything is reduced to simplicity. The song says, “And who are you, who are you on this day/For once only you, only you can say.” There is no one there to tell you who you ought to be. The song queries, “And will you hear another name/Tell me what has changed and what’s the same.”
In "Tereza" a deep well of drifting synth floats behind the guitars that sing over it. The synths move under subtly shifting guitar lines. Underneath all of it is the bass and the steady time keeping of the drums as that gentle, slightly sad vocal melody winds over the top of it. There’s a lot of atmosphere and a sense of melancholy about the music.
There’s an enigmatic quality to the lyrics of this song. Who is Tereza and why, as the song says, is it that “she’ll be what I can’t do?” Again there’s a question as to why Tereza’s embrace will press the love of the narrator closer to the heart of the subject of the song.
The idea of “packing a fever and my life” and waiting at the subject of the song’s door only to end up finding that inside, “I wait alone/I watch the clock I watch the phone.”
As the song moves on, there’s a question about how the narrator and Tereza relate to one another. In the chorus, “Call me Tereza/Say my name and hold me tight/Say Tereza/It’s fragile but it’s right” the implication is that somehow the teller of the story and Tereza are one in the same.
The ambiguity only continues as the narrator talks about her photos strung around the room. This is contrasted with the lines, “And her eyes are everywhere/The shine upon her greyscale hair.” This is a song that seems to discuss identity and its meaning.
Slowly expanding, circular feeling synth sounds are joined by a thick wedge of bass and a throbbing, pulsing beat in "Something About You." There’s a very open and flowing feeling to the synth sounds in this track and then a guitar line flows out, playing a subtle melody and again the airy vocals with an edge of darkness, even in this song that is fundamentally a song of hope.
This is one of the more positive songs on the album. It’s the closest you’ll get to a conventional love song on This Perfect Day. It starts out saying, “There’s something about you/That’s changing my mind/There’s something about you/That’s proving me wrong…”
The narrator of the song talks about her life being “all ablaze” as “you stormed out of the haze” and now “the hills are green again/And the skies are blue.” Despite how “numb we’ve become/it’s pandemonium) ultimately sanity has been restored “because of you.”
In a society where “all we read is lies” the song calls out to the beloved, telling them “there’s truth in your eyes.” There’s real emotion on display as the lyrics talk about closing the book and opening up the door before saying, “more fearless than you know/You let the music flow” and “When the world conspires/I’ll never want for more.”
"Outside" opens with high synth flowing out into open space where it’s joined by bass pulses and another smooth, steady beat. The bass guitar’s weight descends through the track, sliding down underneath a sweeping palette of sound.
Rising breaths of synth slowly move through the track as that bass guitar continues riffing along with the musical heartbeat of the track. Now those swelling sounds coalesce into something with the outlines of a melody and all of it flows and glides past.
This is a song that in many ways delves into the world as it is now, a place where realities are mediated through screens and our connections are often virtual. As the lyrics ask, “What if the world were just a TV show?/And all your friends were never real?/And strangers watch you every night,/The only ones who really care how you feel?”
The imagery of houses as “just facades” and that opening the wrong door will simply lead you to an empty field further reinforces the sense of unreality. The song asks if escape is necessary (I’ll meet you on the outside) or even worth the effort (Or should I just stay here/And go with the flow?).
That sense of playing out some kind of empty drama is added to as Jennifer Maher Coleman sings, “I don’t know what to believe/Is it love or are you just reading lines?/Can you tell me how it ends?/The spoilers say I turn out fine.”
This Perfect Day is an album that is full of depth, meaning and musical interest. Architrave fuses guitar work, synth sounds and vocals that bring beauty and strength to the lyrics. Those lyrics are some of the more engaging and interesting that I’ve come across in a while. As a whole, I feel that this album produced an atmosphere and a mood that compelled me to keep listening to it.