In the past, I’ve spoken about how for the next couple of years, we’re going to have an outpouring of music that in some way or another, is about the pandemic. Some bands have already accidentally explored material that seems downright prophetic when released in late 2019, but those tunes were more about the growing universal feeling of disconnect and distance/isolation we’ve started to collectively feel.
Now plenty of artists are dropping the subtle pretense and outright stating “yes, this about the pandemic” and I’d say the musical receiving’s have been, at best mixed at best, and at worse, reactionary tunes that feel more like glorified vent sessions with beats. I can say though that “The New Normal” from electronic artist Rick Christian is mostly the former than the latter. This is his second album after 2009s “No Fast Dancing” and I have to assume that the time pausing all of us has to do with him being able to craft a full album for us. Christian specializes in electronic instrumentals and vocals, mainly with an ambient feeling of unease. A less aggressive but no less poignant Trent Reznor who specializes in the brutally honest lyrical framework of in very few words, being very pissed off about what’s happening in the world. It’s blunt, and it hits you over the head with what it’s talking about, but that’s the point. It’s angry but often has a very soft quality to it thanks to Christian’s often-timid vocals that juxtapose the more blaring sounds of the instrumentals.
Even the song titles are shockingly transparent about what this is all about with names like “Holiday in covid”, “Wondering” and of course even the album title “The New Normal”. I think for some, your mileage may vary in terms of enjoyment. Personally, I liked and sometimes loved many of the tracks, highlighting the aforementioned “Wondering” which both serves as a deconstruction of the listless feelings of a pandemic world with no clear direction, and I especially loved the swan song to many businesses in “After 8 pm” which sees Christian at his most frustrated on the album over so many imposed restrictions. For those wanting a more escapist experience might not want to look to this album considering the level of harshness and reality that’s apparent.
Christians vocals in the opening track feel a little shaky in their delivery but that might be intentional to capture the feeling of disbelief and unease, but as the album progresses, despite never letting up on the dark material, his voice becomes more and more confident, leading to one of the more slow-burn but rewarding tracks “Outside Looking In”. As we hopefully come to the end of this pandemic journey, time will tell how a lot of the releases of the past year will hold up, but I’m certain “The New Normal” will stand out as a highlight in the indie scene. It feels like a journey and in ways has echoes of a concept album, and Christian has a lot to feel proud of.
by Wyatt Kennedy