The Narrative – New Anxieties

Most bands simply aren’t cut out for the long-term. That might sound harsh, but it’s true: most groups start their careers in high school or college, run the course of a couple years, and consequently disband after graduation hits. Then, life takes over, people get married, have kids, get “real” jobs, and music is simply a thing that happens a decade later when the band chooses to reunite for “one night only”. The other scenario often accompanies prolonged adolescence, where the music tends to lean toward several albums of the same style or frenetic twists driven by common trends.

So, to see a band like The Narrative have a career that spans a decade and a half yet seems to lack both stagnation and compromise is a welcome change. Their newest EP is certainly a change in light of their earlier albums, though it doesn’t seem premeditated by any particular trend. But one thing is clear – these are Suzie Zeldin’s songs. While Golden Silence saw her trade off vocal responsibilities (and often harmonize) with Jesse Gabriel, these tracks prominently feature her vocals. And to some degree, these newest sonic offerings lean more heavily toward the pop end instead of the indie angle some fans might be used to. There is perhaps a risk of this EP feeling like only half of the story that previous releases have told.

But putting that aside, as well as taking into account that Golden Silence was about eight years ago, it’s frankly encouraging to see that there are any songs at all. I don’t know about you, but the art I make varies wildly from one month to the next. Multiply that by over 100 and it’s not surprising that the duo have shifted course here. After all, they’ve never been too content on simply playing it safe. Every would-be reintroduction is a risk in itself, but factor in the fact that fans have probably come and gone, it never hurts to come back bold.

And that’s exactly what Zeldin brings to the table here. From the opening notes of the title track, the sound reminds me a bit of a more subdued take on Paper Route. It’s not the most technical track, relying heavily on repeating motifs and synth lines. Zeldin’s voice is coated in reverb and processing, though this is all done tastefully to add just the right amount of moodiness. There’s been somewhat of a resurgence of this sound, including the likes of Ellis, Sun June, and Tiny Deaths (among many others) so the band manages to earn a couple easy comparisons without feeling too derivative.

The rest of the EP continues in similar fashion. “Crushed” revels in the aftermath of a failed relationship, albeit with the catchiest moments of the whole collection. “Higher” hearkens back to 80s female pop giants with its bombastic vocal energy. “On the Ride” shows Zeldin’s softer side through its calm, ballad textures. In terms of subject matter, Zeldin explores themes of mental health, personal growth, and feelings of displacement.

Obviously, it’s a more concise release than what we’re used to from The Narrative, and the approach is certainly concentrated: while the tracks all have clear and unique personalities, the hazy, retro vibe of it all manages to reign this time around. The story is arguably more limited by the brevity of the release as opposed to anything related to the lyrics themselves. I have to wonder what one or two more tracks might have done to help flesh things out here; even though there isn’t anything too out-of-place, the EP does end fairly quickly. The use of programmed drums has its strengths and weaknesses, but I personally wouldn’t mind a bit more punch at times. That said, Zeldin’s vocal delivery is as strong as ever and she has proven through her tenure that she can deftly navigate a whole spectrum of genres.

Rumor has it that there are more songs cooking, but for now you can enjoy The Narrative proving that it is possibly for artists to withstand the test of time and maintain artist integrity.

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