Published Mar 23, 2016On their third full-length album, Atlanta-based O'Brother embrace a heavy, spacey sound that, by now, has become their signature. Described by frontman Tanner Merritt as "apocalyptic space-pop," it's the soundtrack to either a dark dream or an oddly pleasant nightmare.
With the help of co-producers Andy Hull and Robert McDowell of Manchester Orchestra, Endless Light softening the band's edges further, another step in a direction they've been slowly moving in over the years. They're more Tool than Torche this time around, and a lot more Muse than ever. (Merritt's bold tenor and admirable falsetto are worth comparing to the English band's Matt Bellamy.)
O'Brother maintain their tendency for plodding stretches that would be sleepy were they not so thundering (see "Burn," for example), but the band have improved in the consistency department, as song-by-song it's a more structurally concise effort than previous ones. There isn't a track that leaps at you quite like "Perilous Love," off 2013's Disillusion, but the great songs are still great — "Deconstruct" boasts one of the band's grooviest and most noteworthy hooks to date, "Bloodlines" is a towering wall of droning instruments and choral harmonies and "Endless Light" builds into a captivatingly dramatic climax — while the less-than-exemplary cuts are, to their credit, still a marked improvement on their prior counterparts.
If you want O'Brother with more velocity and bite, consider their debut album, Garden Window. But this slower and more restrained record has a certain finesse that, if not incredibly captivating, at the very least shows they've made gains from experience over their ten-year history. Endless Light occupies a room as does a grandfather clock: big and rich, steadily paced and never swinging further in one direction than the other. (Triple Crown)