Two years seems like too long a gap for a young, thriving band to go without releasing new music. But The Symptoms are back with their newest record, Lens, and they sound just the same as they did when we last left them. The succinct, 10-song album is both consistent and varied, leaving us both satisfied and craving more. A quick listen, Lens is perfect for cozy bedrooms, dark basements, and dim living rooms.

Lens as a whole dips between depressing tracks and optimistic melodies, rolling across the spectrum of sad to happy like a sine wave. The album seems to undulate between genres as well. The instrumentation on “Today” seems like accompaniment to a rapper’s verses, while the disharmony of “In White” hints at promising post-hardcore leads. But indie rock with a hint of the ’90s seems to be the common thread linking all the tracks, with the wailing guitar in the starring role.

The balance struck between letting the instrumentals and letting the literal words do the “talking” is admirable. Many songs alternate between short verses with few words and extended moody guitar solos. Both music and lyrics hold equal weight in terms of meaning. The electronic humming of the synth that recurs in several songs has the vague familiarity of a garage sale-bought Casio keyboard and almost drops notes of childhood nostalgia into the tracks it appears on.

The lyrics of many of the songs on Lens are simple and repetitive, yet they don’t go unnoticed. The final track of the album, “Image”, contains lyrics that are surprisingly profound: “What were you thinking/when the picture was taken […] at the very moment/that the image was taken.” I couldn’t tell you the number of times I have looked at a photo and wondered that myself.

On the third track, “Today”, the rolling drum beat adds a chilling-on-the-couch vibe reminiscent of a rap song recorded in a basement. The Symptoms’ knack for strangely profound lyrics stick out again with one verse in particular: “Happens every day that we don’t talk/happens every day that we don’t fuck/happens every day that we don’t sleep/happens every day that you leave me.” I could imagine that section being the hook inserted in between verses of rap. Those nostalgic synth tones reappear with more of an echo and definitely become the instrumental highlight of this track.

The only thing lacking is some sort of grittiness or bite. Every time the bass was emphasized, I wanted it to get heavier. Every time the articulate pluck of the guitar was heard, I wanted more fuzz. In most of the songs, in fact, I wanted more noise, more loudness, more desperation, more bite. While the subtlety of the alternating moods does not go unappreciated, I was still left hoping that The Symptoms would bring something attention-grabbing to the foreground.

Perhaps the live versions of these songs provide this grit and the all-encompassing sound I’m seeking. But this shouldn’t have to be the case: The album should stand on its own as a full-blown work of art, not just promise bigger and better things with an implied “to be continued.” But because the album dips into different moods and genres, there is at least a sense of wholeness to it. It’s not a lot to ask for an album that suits a night alone in my bedroom or a long drive in the car, and The Symptoms’ Lens just happens to be the perfect album to fulfill those mood music cravings.

Album Review: The Symptons - Lens
Pros
  • Subtle dips between moods and genres
  • Simple yet profound lyrics
Cons
  • Needs more punch
7.2Overall Score

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