It’s always a delight dipping your hand into the bag that says “alternative rock” because you truly never know what you’re going to get. And when your comparisons are Feeder, U2 and Taking Back Sunday, you know it’s about as alternative as it gets.
Certainly, that’s what Shadows Like Strangers are. They’re as alternative as they come yet firmly stand in the rock encampment. Opening track “Counterpart” kicks things off with snappy, clean riffs and a bassline which will slap you in the face and by far one of the harder-edged tracks on the album. “Love Again” ups the tempo with hints of Hunter & the Bear, albeit with their folky/rootsy element stripped out.
“It Doesn’t Matter At All” is perhaps the song with the most teeth on the album and finds the band taking a grittier root. Meanwhile, the rest of the album has more of a pop and radio-friendly sheen to it, it’s still very much a rock album. “A Way Home” takes the band in a completely different direction with its barebones sound, full of atmospheric soundscapes but still fits with the rest of the album.
Elsewhere, “The Art of Falling Down” sounds like Modern Ruin-style Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes, albeit with a bit less venom (no pun intended). Whilst the highlights of the album may come in the more up-tempo numbers, CALI, isn’t a bad album, not by any stretch. They’d be perfect touring partners for the afore-mentioned Hunter & the Bear and it’s likely they’ve been compared to them in the past. Indeed, the album’s production gives it a clean and airy feel, serving the entire thing well but works best in those tamer numbers.
There’s a real sense of cohesion and the band are evidently a tight unit, rather than playing their individual parts and it shines through. Shadows Like Strangers have brought a wealth of influences to the table but they’ve known where to slot them all to make a well-crafted album.
In terms of pacing, CALI is one of the best I’ve heard in recent memory – peaks and valleys all come at the right time. It’s the perfect album to stick on repeat a few times and lose a couple of hours while you work. You’ll hear new parts with every listen and when you buy/stream the album, you’re going to have this one on repeat, a lot.
CALI is out now