Imagine that the term “dad rock” never existed. Picture a world where sounding sort of like The National didn’t instantly place you in a tradition of poorly cuffed jeans and faded Pink Floyd t-shirts.
This is an ideal world for Eternals, the Somerville-based folk-rock quartet whose second album, Isn’t That Anyone, came out earlier this month. Eternals make the kind of music that your dad would crank up on the way to the hardware store, but calling it “dad rock” sells their ambition unfairly short. Almost every track on Isn’t That Anyone features elements that turn the worn trappings of a young-men-with-guitars record on their head.
“Out of Context,” for instance, stretches from three-and-a-half minutes to over five by a jazz-inflected instrumental outro that comes out of nowhere. “Raised By Wolves” kicks off by laying down some proggy power chords before a blast of sparkly synths worm their way into the mix. Album closer “Affirmation II (Vectors)” blows open the contained studio feel of the rest of the record to reveal a vast, echoey scape where sounds seem to slink away like fleeting thoughts. Throughout, Isn’t That Anyone goads you into pinning it down before yanking the sonic rug out from under you.
For this technique to work, that rug has to be tightly knit—and it is. Every moment on Isn’t That Anyone feels laser-precise. “Bar Room Dancing,” a country-fried romp that wouldn’t feel out of place on any of the last four Avett Brothers albums, lands each guitar crunch and handclap with resonance that satisfies on a molecular level. “Rumors of a Strange Universe” keeps its wistfulness grounded with an airtight, finger-plucked melody that sticks in the mind almost immediately.
Lyrically, though, Eternals don’t do much to distinguish themselves from other groups in their arena. While the concepts of individual songs can be novel—“Out of Context” details the specific sensation of bringing something important up at the wrong moment—the words they use to realize those concepts often get bogged down in cliché. The record is littered with women “turning darkness into light” and promises to “find a city, then find a ride/and…leave in the middle of the night.”
Additionally, a lack of focus plagues Isn’t This Anyone and keeps it from gelling as a fully unified work. All of the songs sound great on their own, and they certainly make for an enjoyable listen, but the downside to the record’s smorgasbord of sound is that there’s little sense of the album as a fully formed statement. Aside from the two-part “Affirmation” that closes it out, listening to the record can feel like listening to a collection of singles summing up the bright spots of a long career.
As it stands, Isn’t That Anyone feels like a new band stretching their sonic comfort zone while dealing with the requisite growing pains of being a new band. It’s exciting and frustrating, and while it may not exactly challenge the adventurous listener, it would certainly challenge their dad.
- Innovative flourishes that would alienate your dad
- Crisp, crisp production
- Can feel more like a collection of singles than a cohesive record
- Lyrical invention doesn't match sonic invention