The reverb-drenched Heirs is a solidly fun and frantic album, a rarity for the stuffy, overserious post-rock genre.
Irish post-rockers And So I Watch You From Afar have been in the game long enough to be able to focus their musical energy into a precise point. The band, on their new album Heirs especially, have perfected the combined elements of arena rock, metal, post-rock, punk and math rock with a few idiosyncrasies of their own -- notably the occasional chanted gang vocals -- so much so that they sometimes sound too comfortable with it all. No, they aren’t groundbreaking; anyone with a passing familiarity with Don Caballero, Tera Melos or Explosions in the Sky could accurately imagine the basis of the band’s sound without actually hearing it. But what these guys lack in ingenuity they mostly make up for with enthusiasm for their craft. Everything about Heirs gives the impression that it’s an incredibly meaningful record for the group, an attitude that in turn makes it sound universally important, even if it’s just an illusion.
Indeed, much of Heirs seems to be dedicated to covering up its own conventional flaws in some garish ways. The band too often opts for “easy” atmosphere by drowning the instrumentation in reverb, a grandiosity so incessantly evoked on the album that it becomes mere extravagance, chipped of its weight over time. Less frequent is the type of dynamic shift used in the middle of “Run Home”, when the instrumentation cuts out to silence, then to the gentle crescendo of a finger-picked guitar. It’s one of the album’s few moments of genuine quiet, the kind that Heirs could use much more of to tone down the bombastic orchestration. Of course, it’s not long before the silence leads into another epic build-up, and instead of seeming powerful or nuanced, the feeling just comes off as fleeting.
Just as bubblegum pop can become sickly sweet after prolonged exposure, so too can it become difficult to endure And So I Watch You From Afar’s exuberant melodramatics after a while, especially with their oft-repeated tricks. Still, from the epic, reverb-soaked hard rock of “Wasps” and the circular climbs of “People Not Sleeping” to the forthright grooves of “Fucking Lifer” and the intricate, subdued melodies at the beginning of “Tryer, You”, Heirs is a persistently engaging album, even as it begins to coil in on itself.
But if And So I Watch You From Afar deserve any credit, it is for resisting many of the well-worn cliches of their chosen genre. They don’t overuse guitar tapping patterns (put to good use on “Animal Ghosts”) or showy sweep picking (used sparsely in songs like “Run Home”), for instance, relying instead on compelling rhythms and sentimental, straightforward guitar solos. Heirs plays more with the emotional dynamism of post-rock than the cerebral complexities of math rock, though they often meet in the middle. It’s an album of hyper-emotionality and heightened musicality, and its nice to have the former override the latter sometimes, even when it’s done shallowly. Even without the immense impact the music tireless aims for, Heirs is a solidly fun and frantic album, a rarity for the stuffy, overserious post-rock genre.