In the digital age where musical output is becoming more and more frequent with the development of Soundcloud (and now the ability to download your music independently on Spotify), quantity is starting to rule over quality. Some artists have forgotten about the simple beauty of starting from scratch when something doesn’t feel right. Luckily, Scottish indie rock darlings We Were Promised Jetpacks take pride in dissecting every aspect of their music, verifying whether or not it represents them in their fullest form.
In an interview with nbhap leading up to their newest album, The More I Sleep the Less I Dream, the band seems more urgent than ever, describing their years-long hiatus, the surprising bleakness in their most recent music, and the inability to produce radio-friendly songs. After initially finding a distaste in the original tracks for The More I Sleep the Less I Dream, lead singer Adam Thompson and company removed everything that felt too simplistic, especially the instruments, and completely re-made the entire album.
Unlike some of their previous work, the grand production is a lot more polished and mature than it’s ever been. There’s a playfulness that’s evidently missing throughout the entire ten songs (something that’s always been there in WWPJ’s discography). Jonathan Low (who’s worked with The War on Drugs, Sufjan Stevens and The National) has a lot to do with the pristine instrumentation and darker tone the band is trying to go for. Low incorporates memorable guitar riffs with more ambitious, awe-inspiring percussion (especially with the harrowing drums).
The platform for which Thompson is able to work on correlates perfectly with his screeching cadence. And sure, while the songwriting still inhabits a condensed feeling compared to the layered production, the emotional resonance is still present.
The title track is a splendid practice in alternative balladry, especially with the Halloween-like vibe radiating off of the electric guitar. Thompson croons as if he’s struggling to control his emotions, (“I lost all hope/I left it with someone, sometime, somewhere ago/And I cry like hell/I’m hugging the floor and pretending there’s somebody els”) although I’m not really sure why. In fact, for the majority of this record, WWPJ makes their reason for this change in tone a little unclear. It’s one thing to keep certain concepts open for perspective, but the Scotland natives even admit in interviews that they’re not sure why there’s so much hopelessness. Thompson characterized it as an “unspoken” situation, but their message definitely stayed ambiguous throughout the record.
Whatever the reason may be for their eventual turn into sorrow, WWPJ modulates it to fit their current mind state. And at least Thompson gives us a hint on “Impossible” about the peculiar route they’ve decided to venture on (“I’m letting go of anger/To find what truly matters/And there’s no rhyme or reason/Nothing explains this feeling”). This confusion endures for the rest of the record, making the journey just as frustrating for listeners as it is for them. Somehow, some way, Thompson emanates this existential crisis, making it in a way that’s both admirable and relatable.
When WWPJ does re-enter that post-punk sound from their early days, the album falters a bit. “Repeating Patterns” features a more animated version of Thompson, making the tonal imbalance in the song too cartoonish to really take seriously. Thankfully, moments like these are mitigated for the most part, but sometimes the band can’t seem to fully grasp their newfound sound.
Their transitions from one song to the next have been a focal point in the group’s discography, but here, the shift is more fluid, specifically when the interlude “Improbable” smoothly changes over to “When I Know More.” It’s a nice addition, but a refreshingly subtle one too.
The More I Sleep the Less I Dream is void of the extra fat that made previous records from WWPJ over-produced. By calling on Low, and going back to their high school roots, the Scots created a more tonally consistent project, one that will probably slip under the cracks of the saturated alternative genre we find ourselves in the midst of. Overall, WWPJ finds beauty in taking a break, and starting from scratch.