Arts, Music

Slowdive Crafts Contemplative, Immersive Album 

Slowdive’s album everything is alive feels like an experience. It‘s the kind of album that would accompany a video art exhibit or some experimental yoga class. Like many shoegaze tracks, listeners don’t have to pay close attention to the songs to enjoy them—there aren’t many catchy choruses to sing along to or strong bass lines to follow—but people still should. 

Slowdive—composed of Rachel Goswell on vocals, guitar, and keyboard; Neil Halstead on vocals and guitar; Christian Savill on guitar; Nick Chaplin on bass; and Simon Scott on drums—formed in 1989 in England. Goswell and Halstead originally started making music together in an indie pop band before forming Slowdive with the other members. The band released three albums in the 90s—Just For A Day in 1991, Souvlaki in 1993, and Pygmalion in 1995—before breaking up shortly after its last album. The band reunited in 2017 for its self-titled album before releasing everything is alive on Sept. 1. 

everything is alive is more of a contemplative album. The eight songs mainly focus on sounds within the music rather than strong messages in the lyrics. Most of the time the breathy, dreamlike singing, which is characteristic to shoegaze, makes the lyrics indistinguishable, allowing listeners to fully immerse themselves in the track. 

“prayer remembered,” for example, is a wordless song. It is the most ambient and peaceful of the tracks off the album. The slow, sad piano notes add an air of melancholy to the song, and even without words, this song feels full of emotion. As the track evolves, it heightens the feelings of sadness and longing of the listeners. The music rises and falls throughout its duration, almost mimicking the sounds of a crashing wave in the process. 

The album as a whole sounds like it drew inspiration from 80s pop. Maybe in doing so, Slowdive is calling back to the indie pop roots of its founding members.

The electronic, plucking-sound of the beat in “chained to a cloud” harkens back to this sentiment as does “shanty,” the first song on the album. “shanty” starts out with a similar 80s electronic beat as “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by Eurythmics. Hypnotic bell tones are woven into the music with the addition of guitar before distortion is added over the track, muffling the vocals and other elements of the music. 

Goswell’s vocals on “shanty” seem to become just another layer of sound in the music instead of their own entity. Especially for pop songs, lyrics are what draw in listeners and make the song catchy and memorable. But, since it falls into the shoegaze genre, the sound of the synthesizers, bell tones, and guitar on “shanty” all culminate in the listener’s ear in a way that makes it just as unforgettable. 

The last song in the album, “the slab,” is also its most upbeat. The music stays stagnant throughout the track, the only real outlier being the addition of Halstead’s vocals toward the end of the song. 

Shoegaze will always be another sect of alternative rock, but everything is alive proves again that Slowdive is among the best in this niche genre. Many 90s bands spend their revivals trying to chase the same success as they enjoyed at their peak. Even though everything is alive might not have the same impact as Souvlaki did in its time, the album holds its own and shows that Slowdive hasn’t lost its touch in the past 28 years.

September 8, 2023