There Is No Year is still very much a part of the band’s tradition, albeit with slight tweaks and variations.
Many argue that music and politics don’t go together as seamlessly as one would expect. Musicians aren’t political theorists, you see, and unless their views are presented in as broad strokes as possible, politically-charged music will inevitably age poorly or lose its power. There might be some truth to this line of thinking, but it seems naive in a time when people are more politically aware than ever. Even so, much music, both in the realms of mainstream pop and underground/independent scenes, is disengaged from reality to an almost sociopathic degree. In this environment, it’s remarkable that a group like Algiers even exists. A righteous fire burns under their sonic surface, and both their self-titled debut and 2017’s The Underside of Power boldly take on their surroundings in a way that modern indie rock just doesn’t do anymore. There Is No Year continues in this vein, but whereas their previous albums were instinctive in their anger, this finds the group taking a far more measured and varied approach.
Previously, Algiers were masters of creating art out of cacophony, twisting and turning noisy electronic textures into something recognizable and human. While the electronic elements are still very much present on There Is No Year, they serve a different aesthetic purpose. The synth tones used are often softer and less abrasive than before, and they in turn aid the shift from raw anger to haunted uncertainty. The subtle intro to “Losing is Ours” hints at a lingering sadness that eventually builds into something funereal; it glimpses at the possibility of hope while refusing to put aside how far things have fallen in the meantime.
That theme resurfaces again on “Dispossession,” perhaps the most organic the band have sounded up to this point. Here, the drum machines take a backseat to driving piano and a swirl of vocals from Franklin James Fisher and some backing singers to create a sort of modernist doom gospel. As the song moves forward, it strives to reach something that even Fisher acknowledges may not be attainable.
While it’s certainly not as abrasive as Algiers can be, There Is No Year is still very much a part of the band’s tradition, albeit with slight tweaks and variations. The album runs the stylistic gamut, pulling elements from soul, funk, post-punk and industrial to create a stylistic hybrid that defies easy classification. At times, Algiers rise above the din and create something truly anthemic, as with “We Can’t Be Found,” which may sounds closest in spirit to the sort of call-to-arms that “The Underside of Power” was in 2017. On album closer “Void,” the band kick into high gear and create something brimming with manic punk energy. The clarity created by Randall Dunn and Ben Greenberg’s production only further emphasizes the band’s fluid concept of genre trappings. There’s a plurality of ideas at play, unified by lyrical fire rather than any single sonic concept.
Admittedly, this sort of strident anger and passion in music isn’t for everyone, so it’s not surprising that some regard Algiers with a skeptical eye. That doesn’t make these reactions any less disappointing, especially when so many of their contemporaries exude a detached, bourgeois nonchalance that bizarrely escapes criticism. Algiers are one of the few artists in indie rock using their art to try to make sense of what the world is and, more importantly what it should be. After two albums that could be seen as calls to arms, the latest from Algiers is a reminder of what could be achieved if we are willing to fight for it.