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Austin’s The Black and White Years new album ‘Patterns’ is a beautiful synth-pop shamanistic journey into the soul. [REVIEW + LISTEN]

2010 November 12

Not sure if you guys are big Bowie fans, but I love the man. With a diverse body of work that includes everything from folk music to 80′s pop to Drum and Bass, the dude has gone through quite a few changes in his career. The biggest jump was probably from folk to funky. I wasn’t alive at the time, but I always wonder if he was changing his style or finally recognizing the sound that he’d always wanted to make?

This is the question I asked myself a couple weeks ago when I received a copy of the new album by Austin’s Black and White Years. From the dreamy “Up!” to the echoing, heavenly loops on the closing track “Promises,” this album is distinctly different. The college rock drums and guitars are gone, replaced by rich layers of sound and melodic synth lines. For me, “Patterns” is a well-thought techno-pop album that shows the bands true voice.

For me, “Patterns” feels a little like a journey through the inner self. With it’s dense layers of sound, there’s something organic and shamanistically spiritual about the album. In fact, it kinda makes me feel like I’ve taken mushrooms.  Plus, the lyrics carry us through one man’s journey that begins in a place that’s empty and pointless and ends with the discovery of what’s important to him. But don’t let that scare you away; it’s ultimately a danceable, uplifting album that I can’t stop playing.

Track-by-track listen to Black and White Years new album “Patterns”

  • The opening track Up! sets the mood for the album. Dreamy, almost Japanese-sounding synths swirl around like early morning grogginess. Like an alarm clock, the vocals kick in: “Wake Up. It’s morning,” reminding us of another day of stress ahead: work, maybe a boring relationship and the artist’s quest to balance a job and art. He questions his own work: “There are too many artists, too much noise and not enough genius.” Or maybe it’s a wake-up call to the masses influenced by pop music?
  • As Thick As Thieves takes us through a scarlet darkwave journey through paranoid love. With all the isolation of a Suicide track combined with the emotional synths of the Knife, it’s violent yet danceable. Distorted everything, but still uptempo and poppy, like Joy Division on a happy day, it ends with an electric guitar riff layered over distant grunts. My favorite track on the album, I’ve had this on constant repeat all week. <3 srsly.
    • LISTEN: “Thick as Thieves” by Black and White Years

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  • Patterns feels like a Cut Copy track if they stripped away all the diva disco beats, and dance floor light. Love the harpsicord. And how can you go wrong with a song that talks about dancing? Actually, I think this might be some sort of metaphor about Plato’s the Cave?
    • DOWNLOAD: “Patterns” by Black and White Years [right click to download]

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  • Animal Behaviors uses a dark, grimy synth line, techno beats and  fun wordplay to explore the relationship between modern man and our animalistic self. This is that heady part of the trip where you’re alone, exploring your darker side.
  • Perfect is definitely the most trippy track on the album. Looping high-pitched pygmy voices, I’m kind of reminded of 90s techno band Deep Forrest. The keys kinda drift between 60s psychedelic playful to a cinematic Vangelis. This is where our hero starts to come out of his head.
  • Luck and Timing has a dirty, funky synth line. There’s something sardonic about the lyrics-like Pink Floyd’s “Money” except less obvious and more Buddhist. He’s discovered his true self. Another one of my favesies on the album.
  • Quintessential Twenty-something is a brilliant pop song. The uptempo beats remind me of Knife’s Deep Cuts album with a dash of Erasure. With his new found knowledge of himself, our hero reflects on a past relationship.
  • Helen has a beautiful 80′s synth pop sound that reminds me of early Depeche Mode or Yaz. Very heavenly song about reconciliation with a lover.
  • Silence Is Our Medicine is like if Prince and Gary Numan had a kid and raised it at Elysium. Seriously, I swear there’s a Prince sample in there. Love this song.
  • Everything’s Eventual reminds me of a 90′s pop song. Maybe Color Me Bad? Back track has some house music horns and strings. Makes me think someone is in love…woooooo
  • Promises continues the happy house, lovefest. This is that part of the trip when you all sort of gel. Watching the sun come up, everyone is feeling good. You want to be with your friends forever. Such a HAPPY HAPPY song :) It’s like

The album comes out next Tuesday, but if you can’t wait that long to hear it, scoot on down to the Album Release Party TONIGHT at ND Studios. You can also cop the first single, Up!, on iTunes.

  • EXPERIENCE: “101X Homegrown Live Presents The Black and White Years CD Release Party w/ Sip Sip and MoTel Aviv” (Friday, 11.12.10); ND Studios (E. 5th St and Brushy, 78702); Doors at 9P;  Do512 Event

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2 Responses leave one →
  1. November 21, 2010

    Thanks for the tip Chris. Went to the CD release show and was blown away by how the new material changes the dynamic of their show. I was already a fan but WOW, they got a real shot in the arm from tweaking their style.

    Disc is great through and through. Nice find.

  2. November 23, 2010

    Couldn’t agree more. :)

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