Some records are built around a single premise, but that it isn’t the case in Skyfactor’s latest album A Thousand Sounds. As its title implies, A Thousand Sounds is a kaleidoscopic offering of the band’s trademark tonality spread out over eleven songs. Where we start with the title track is nowhere close to where we end up in the lasting “Hoboken Lullaby,” and only when we dig deep into its dreamlike imagery do we attain a grasp of the record’s singular truth. Taking cues from Signal Strength and their eclectic batch of influences, the band zigzags through an abundance of themes in this LP, which is neither conceited nor self-deprecating in its transmission of considerate, personal lyrics.
Humble folk-rock tunes like “Better for the Moment” and “What We Had” are brilliantly balanced by the dirty rhythm of tracks like “The Whole World’s Here” and “Run Away,” and while these four songs share little in common structurally other than centering on stunning acoustic guitars, they’re derived from the same alternative country tonality nevertheless. If Nashville were to produce records as evocative and cleverly designed as this one, maybe country wouldn’t be the antiquated genre that it is today. Skyfactor take every portion of the recording process seriously, and their labored efforts are visible in every one of these songs regardless of their simplicity.
I’m almost positive that the reverb we hear in “New Day” and “Damn the Remote” is completely organic and not generated by some sort of technologically advanced software. The springy recoil lacks the hollow tininess of digitally rendered material, and fellow musicians will marvel at the mix’s fixation on little details like this one. “What We Had” would translate into a symphonic piece just fine were the band to be interested in doing so, and the delicate layering of the guitar in “Stay Dear” reminds me of 60s psychedelic pop in its hazy presentation. It could be the cerebral tone of the production, but I think “Stay Dear” could be described as Skyfactor tapping into their avant-garde side for the first time.
These tracks add a sumptuously surreal element that just wasn’t there in the last couple of albums they’ve released, but I don’t know if I would chock it up to the larger postmodernist movement taking place in pop right now. “Lost at Sea” isn’t spacey enough to really qualify as acoustic art-rock, but “Hoboken Lullaby” does gaze off into the distance with a certain stoniness that is very generous but stops short of being overdone. I was shocked when I added up the tracks and found that this record is actually 45 minutes in length. Ziegler’s singing is so enrapturing amidst the potency of the music that the album flows like whitewater rapids and becomes hard to put down once started.
Try as one might, there’s no escape from the ruthless melodies that A Thousand Sounds catapults in our direction, and I have a feeling that it’s going to be the most successful release in Skyfactor’s discography so far. They’ve reached a pinnacle point that we were teased with in Signal Strength and now get to really enjoy in spades on this record, and I think that more than anyone else the band’s most loyal fans will celebrate A Thousand Sounds as the swansong of the New York quartet’s career. It’s a multifaceted adventure that doesn’t stick to the script, and I would recommend it to anyone who loves premium, easy-going pop/rock.