New York rockers Skyfactor hold nothing back from us in their new LP A Thousand Sounds, a record that encourages us to shed our inhibitions and follow the passionate groove of its cathartic lyrics. Hand claps give way to a percussive palm muted acoustic guitar that draws us into the majestic vocals of frontman Bob Ziegler; the acoustic sonic ribbonry wraps around us like a warm blanket and stays with us through the hauntingly contemplative “Long Way to Go” and the jagged riffing of “Better for the Moment.” As we work through the tracks it becomes clear that Skyfactor’s latest record is an engaging listening experience that will leave diehard fans of the group more than satisfied and unfamiliar listeners charmed by its simple yet inspiring narratives that touch on rock n’ roll’s more emotional side.
There’s a strong pop sensibility in this album that wasn’t present in Skyfactor’s last LP Signal Strength, but they haven’t sold out their DIY ethos at all. “What We Had” is a retrospective confessional that is as raw and visceral as they come, while “Lost At Sea” boasts an insular mix that magnifies the emotion in Ziegler’s voice. The cosmetics of this record are much more polished than what some might have been expecting, but I don’t think anyone who listens to “Hoboken Lullaby” would have the audacity to suggest that these songs didn’t come from a place of endearing vulnerability. The harmonies are hypnotizing and the verses earnestly hesitant. Slower tracks like “Stay Dear” keep the momentum going not through their tempo but in their utilization of space, which is something you don’t typically find outside of ambient music.
The tonality here is so opulent and magnetizing that it occasionally overshadows the actual play of the band. “Damn the Remote” has the swing of an old fashioned folk rock song with an updated structure to suit the palate of today’s audiences, but its elegant articulation is left untouched. There’s so much feeling and soul in the trickle of notes that we come in contact with during the opening bars of “Run Away” and the chorus of “Better for the Moment” that the familiarity of the lyrics becomes obscured by the experimental nature of the musicality. The minute intricacies in these songs don’t go unnoticed, and I think it’s overwhelmingly obvious that Skyfactor spent a lot of time perfecting the mix before finally clearing the record for release.
With a diverse collection of imagistic tracks that furiously press against the speakers and demand a reaction from listeners, A Thousand Sounds very well could be Skyfactor’s most well-rounded and mature full length album yet. The vitality of previous works is still alive and blossoming in songs like the moving “The Whole World’s Here” and the stylish firebomb “New Day,” but there’s no debating that this is the group at their most centered and agile in the studio. Skyfactor fans have been waiting for an album as grandiose as this one, and the band pulled out all the stops and delivered something that amplifies all of their best qualities and melds them into a single tour de force. I’ll admit that I fell for A Thousand Sounds because of its affectionate melodies, but I got hooked on it because of its cratering emotion, which runs much deeper than any of their quaking rhythms ever could.