Album: We Will Always Love You
Artist: The Avalanches
Label: Modular Recordings
Non-Airable Tracks: Reflecting Light, Take Care In Your Dreaming, Always Black, Born To Lose
To give some background—I love the Avalanches. Besides their most recent release, We Will Always Love You, they have two other albums in their discography. Their first, Since I Left You, released in 2000, is a masterpiece. It’s an hour of upbeat, sample-heavy instrumentals, and stands as the most accessible entry point to the genre of plunderphonics. Sixteen years later, the production duo released Wildflower, which has strong moments but too many issues to survive as a sixteen-year-awaited follow-up. SILY’s approach to sampling is groundbreaking in its use of archived audio bits and these bits' ability to stand on their own as instruments without their context prior to repurposing. For every success SILY has in this regard, Wildflower’s are far too referential and come off as trite (This is at its worst with the “Favorite Things” melody on “Frankie Sinatra”). Despite its flaws, Wildflower does introduce the Avalanche’s taste for features (with notable guests Danny Brown, Chaz Bundick—from Toro y Moi, and David Berman) and precedes the excellent collaborations in WWALY. Still, Wildflower signified a scary trend I dearly wished the duo would not continue in their follow-up.
The release season for WWALY was rocky. February 2020 saw the release of the first single: “Running Red Lights” featuring Rivers Cuomo and Pink Siifu. Without the context of the album, this song is absurdly annoying. Rivers Cuomo’s voice is characteristically grating and so displaced from the electronic instrumentals. Imagine my realization that at the release of this album, 20 years would have passed, and the Avalanches duo would still have not released anything worth comparing to SILY (save for their “Out of Control” remix of the Chemical Brothers—seriously give this a listen). After some COVID-19 related delays and some other (less disappointing, still mediocre) single releases, I had kind of forgotten that there was an album release planned.
At its core, WWALY reads like an ultimatum lost in outer space—it’s haunting, lovesick, and overwhelmingly human. This album sounds as much like a goodbye album as it does a return to form. Structurally, WWALY resembles Gorillaz’s 2017 album: Humanz and Flying Lotus’s 2019 album: Flamagra in genre, length, and reliance on features. Wildflower experimented with placing features but in WWALY, nearly every song features a guest (some of my favorites being MGMT, Vashti Bunyan, Perry Farrell, Mick Jones, Kurt Vile, and Denzel Curry). Ideally, listen to this album in order. While this is less important as it sheds SILY’s continuous mix format, interludes are strategically placed to strengthen the delivery of certain songs. Consider my previous judgment of “Running Red Lights” as a single. With the context of the album, this song actually works really well. Clocking in nearly an hour into the album, “Running Red Lights” serves as an optimistic recovery between the bleak intensity of “Always Black”, “Dial D for Devotion”, and “Born To Lose”. The otherwise corny lyrics are far more endearing with context from the album. Order aside, several songs are incredibly good on their own. The aforementioned “Born To Lose”, “Music Makes Me High”, “We Go On”, and “The Divine Chord” are some of my favorites. This album is pretty long (71 minutes) so if you don’t have the patience but are interested, give these a listen. As I briefly mentioned before, this album sounds like a final word from the Avalanches duo. Whether they’re passing on the torch or not, this work demonstrates an emphatically sincere appreciation of their favorite music and their musical contemporaries. Give We Will Always Love You a listen—or maybe two. No rush, it’ll always be there.
Humanz - Gorillaz (2017)
Flamagra - Flying Lotus (2019)
LemonJelly.ky - Lemon Jelly (2000)
The Divine Chord
We Go On
Music Makes Me High
Born To Lose
Reviewer’s Name: Tobias Kochenderfer
Date of Review: 2/20/2021