Psyche folk-rock at its finest.
When I first heard ‘Ego Death’, I immediately bought all of Beams’ back catalogue. The Toronto based folk-rock band had turned up the rock a bit more in their mix apparently for this album but what spoke to me most was just how harmonious the musicians are. ‘Ego Death’ contains lots of little touches that all add up to make it an exceptional psyche folk-rock album.
The first part of the puzzle is the story of ‘Ego Death’. The album revolves around reinventing and improving yourself but frames it as a heroes journey. It does this by using lots of interesting lyrical imagery and the album flows like a storybook too. ‘Born To Win’ see’s you as the hero charging out guns blazing and the music follows suit. We get into a hairy battle with the raucous ‘Break Glass’, where guitars and riffs are king. We lose ourselves in the great expansive post-rock tinged ‘Find Me’ only to be left clinging for rescue in the sorrowful and whistful ‘Til The Morning Comes’. A brief moment of solace and reflection comes from the banjo rock anthem ‘Sweet Tea’. ‘Brittle bones, brittle heart, brittle mind’ declares Beams as they hit a moment of clarity and union in all the instruments together at once. It marks a turning point in the album.
Musically, Beams reminds me a little of Tanya Donelly with her penchant for Western and Country influences. ‘See the Light’ sounds like it is going to be a country track but switches to a desert cruncher for the chorus. After a conversation over defeating inner demons, ‘Time Drain’ sees us back upon the galloping rock anthems that opened the album. We are renewed with energy and ready to rumble. The dramatic guitar solo’s and drum rolls are infectious. It isn’t often that Beams go for big hooks. Often their rock has a beguiling quality to it. Riffs and chord structures are not standard and so it draws you in with its overall slinkiness. ‘Rain God’ is a prime example of this. Moving from jazzy rock verses to power riffs via unconventional chords. Yet it just… flows.
‘Three Star Systems’ brings in acoustic guitars for the first time to sit next to beautiful glockenspiel and soothing vocals. It is closest an album gets to a ballad but it refuses to stand still. Whilst Beams are enjoying their reinvention, the lyrics also made me chuckle as a reviewer who has been forced into a scoring system for music. ‘In a three star system, I give it three.’ The album closes with the beautiful ‘A Flower Blossomed’. It is a mixture of everything that has come before but with a zen smear. The guitars, synths and vocals have an extra haze or layer to them. Everything feels a little brighter. It might be a trick of the ear or mind but it feels like the track has a little more glisten to it.
It is all this attention to detail, enjoying the story, riding the waves and having some killer riffs that makes ‘Ego Death’ fantastic. A beautifully realised album from start to finish, Beams has been one of my favourite discoveries of 2021. Easily. Don’t you just love it when you stumble across a band that just ticks every box you were looking for? Highly recommended.
Recommended track: Born To Win
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