Two and a half years since their debut When It Was Now, Atlas Genius have returned with their second album Inanimate Objects. Although When It Was Now was an enjoyable album that provided us with masterpieces such as ‘Back Seat’, ‘If So’ and ‘Trojans’, the band played it rather safe, sticking to what they knew and taking few creative risks. Their second album takes the best of their first and puts greater emphasis on keyboards, meaning that the band are able to both retain their signature sound and venture further into the realms of indietronica and alternative dance.
The album’s lead single ‘Molecules’ is the most obvious illustration of the band’s development and improvement. The keyboard takes a lead role in this track, but as the song progresses the guitar takes a more prominent role, and the two instruments complement each other well throughout. This, along with a strong, memorable chorus and Keith Jeffery’s more assertive vocals make for a fun, exciting and anthemic track. This is Atlas Genius at their very best.
There are other signs of progress in this album, for example, ‘Stockholm’ is a darker-sounding song than we are used to from the band, but this new sound suits them well. Starting with a rather sinister piano solo and featuring deeper and angrier guitar riffs, the song shows that the band are just as comfortable with a more intense and bassy sound as they are with the feel-good indie pop that led to their rise to prominence.
Meanwhile, tracks such as ‘Refugees’ and ‘Friendly Apes’ wouldn’t look out of place on their first album, as these are guitar driven and the use of synths is subtle rather than dominating. However, the instrumental parts are noticeably shorter and the lyrics are far less repetitive than many songs on When It Was Now. ‘The City We Grow’ follows a similar trend, but the longer, more impassioned chorus in this song is a symbol of the refinement of their signature sound.
Atlas Genius’ attempts at slower songs on this album are somewhat hit and miss. ‘Where I Belong’ features a gentler, softer-sounding lead guitar and quieter synth sounds, resulting in a relaxed and melodic song. ‘Friends with Enemies’ sees the band using instrumentation more sparsely and integrating elements of acapella, but this song fails to leave a lasting impression. However, ‘Levitate’, the final track, is a calm and measured number, and the emphasis on acoustic guitar and percussion offsets the intensity of earlier tracks.
Overall, Inanimate Objects is a marked improvement on the band’s first offering When It Was Now. Atlas Genius’ second album the sound of an established indie band that aren’t afraid to experiment. They have maintained an important balance between keeping things fresh and preserving the sounds that made them so popular. Given the greater influence of electronic music on this album, it will be intriguing to see where their third album takes them.