Atlas Genius – When It Was Now
Record Label: Warner Bros. Records
Release Date: February 19th 2013
Australian four-piece Atlas Genius is indie-rock’s best kept secret; lead single from debut record When It Was Now, “Trojans,” is starting to garner some recognition on modern rock charts, but they’ve still failed to be noticed alongside plenty of other indie/folk bands, such as The Lumineers, Mumford & Sons, Grouplove, Walk the Moon, Imagine Dragons, Two Door Cinema Club, and the xx, just to name a few. This band is a classic case of “They should be popular, so why aren’t they?” That’s a good question, because this is a question I have with plenty of other bands in plenty of other genres. This band is a perfect example of that, so hopefully they do get more recognition soon, because they surely deserve it, and that’s coming from someone who has only recently discovered this band. They have been on my radar for awhile, and I’ve seen them slowly creep up on the modern rock charts, but they’re not a household name yet. I did see their debut record When It Was Now drop last week, so of course, I had to listen to them more in depth to see if I should buy a copy. I went to listen to lead single “Trojans,” which I mentioned earlier, and I was absolutely in love with that song. While vocalist and guitarist Keith Jeffery doesn’t have the best voice I’ve ever heard, his voice fits well with the accompanying music, comprised of drummer Michael Jeffery, bassist Steven Jeffery, and keyboardist Darren Sell. I think it goes without saying that Keith, Michael, and Steven are brothers, but I’ll say it anyway, in case someone didn’t catch onto that. Regardless, though, this quartet is a force to be reckoned with in the indie world, at least. They have an indie-pop element to them, with Sell’s keys, but it’s not overbearing. They use them in the same way that bands like Imagine Dragons and Vampire Weekend use them – to add to the music, and not become overbearing. This record specifically has songs that do have a more indie-pop sound, but they are not overbearing, nor take up the whole record. The rest of the record is actually very enjoyable indie-rock, and while it’s not totally unique, this is a classic case of a band that does what they do well. That’s also not to say this band is generic, either, but what makes a generic record? Without digressing too much, it’s a very subjective concept. What someone may classify as generic, another person might not. It just depends on how long you’ve been listening to music, how much you’ve listened to, and your overall preferences. There is nothing wrong with a record that is generic, but what makes it bad is when that it doesn’t do it well, or doesn’t have at least one tiny thing that makes them stand out. With Atlas Genius, vocalist Keith Jeffery does stand out, despite not being a great vocalist, he is enjoyable. Another thing that stands out is their overall song structure; they have a knack for catchy melodies and memorable hooks without straying too far from their indie sound. With that being said, let’s take a look at this record, and see when it was now? That pun didn’t make sense, but let’s take a look at this record, and see what makes them an indie force to be reckoned with.
The record begins with the aptly named “Electric,” which definitely is how the song starts off – it begins with skittering keyboards and a very groovy sound overall. Finally, around the 30-second mark, Keith Jeffery’s voice appears, and like I said earlier, he’s not an amazing vocalist, but he’s not terrible, either. He’s kind of right in the middle, and his vocals aren’t annoying, but I’ve heard better, to say the least. His vocals do fit with the music, so that’s a plus. This opening track is really representative of their sound overall, and this is a very indie-pop influenced track with the keys taking the stage, but it still retains rock elements, too. Lyrically, this is a really interesting track, as the whole record is. In fact, the lyrics are definitely one of my favorite parts of the record, and do make Jeffrey’s vocals a bit more tolerable, because his lyrics are really cool, especially for the genre. Either way, “Electric” is certainly an electrifying opening track that makes me very excited for the whole album. Next track “If So” is slightly different, in the sense that the verses are very indie-rock sounding, while the chorus has a flourishing electronic sound to it, which is really cool, because it makes the song more interesting and engaging. Again, Jeffery’s vocals are alright, and while they’re nothing to marvel at, they’re enjoyable, and lyrically, the song is wonderful as well. This is one of the highlights of the record, really. It’s pretty straightforward, but that’s why I like this record, because while it’s straightforward, it’s still unique enough to where the band have their own unique spin on the genre they’re in. One flaw that I do notice is that the record may become rather derivative for people who are familiar with indie-rock/indie-pop or who don’t really care for it. I love the genre, and I listen to a lot of this kind of stuff, so I can understand if it may get boring, or drag on a bit. The nice thing is, however, the album is about 38 minutes, which is a nice length for a record like this. Moving on, though, third track “Back Seat” is a rather forgettable track. This is what I mean by the record can sound rather derivative. It’s enjoyable, but it’s certainly falls to the wayside compared to songs like lead single “Trojans,” or the title track. A few songs on this record are rather forgettable, but still enjoyable. They just don’t do much for me, really. Third track “Back Seat” is one of them.
Thankfully, though, fourth track is the lead single, “Trojans,” and it’s easily one of the best tracks on here, if not my absolute favorite. This is the defining song of the band, and the song that’s starting to propel them to popularity. This is a more indie-rock leaning song, but there are indie-pop elements here. The whole record is kind of like this, too; it’s insanely catchy, but also still having that indie-rock edge as well. The electronics and the keys never become overbearing or take the reigns on a song, per se. “Trojans” has a really infectious guitar riff throughout the song, and it just carries it. The chorus is equally infectious as well. This is definitely the defining track of the band, and I can truly see why this song is getting a bit more popular on the modern rock charts. Before I move on, one thing I noticed about this record are the song lengths are rather short, and the longest song clocks in at a little over four minutes, which is a nice thing, because as I mentioned earlier, the length of the record is about 38 minutes. That’s the average length of a record, and in this case, the length is perfect, because it’s not too short, but it doesn’t drag on, either. This band knows what they’re doing, and they’re doing it well, to say the least.
As with most records, the middle of the record tends to slow down a bit, and features some “filler” tracks. Well, that’s not quite true here, and I did just mention that the length of the record is pretty good, so there really isn’t too much filler here, aside from a few tracks that don’t really do a lot for me, such as third track “Back Seat.” Fifth track “Through the Glass” is the second longest track on the record, which clocks in at about four minutes, so it’s a nice length, but this song is different for one reason – it’s an acoustic-based track. The beginning of the song features an acoustic guitar, which is really interesting. It is nice this track appears at the middle of the record as well, because it shakes things up a bit. It also features some handclaps in the verses, and it’s a breezy indie-pop track that has a very “pretty” sound. In fact, I would say this is a very “pretty” record, because it sounds so nice and pleasant. The rest of the record follows suit, and this is what I meant by a couple of “forgettable” tracks, too; sixth track “On a Day” is a very nice indie-pop track, but it really doesn’t do much for me, to be honest. It doesn’t do a whole lot for me, but it’s enjoyable, nonetheless. A track that does do a lot for me is eighth track “Don’t Make a Scene.” This, combined with ninth track “All These Girls,” makes for a one-two punch combo. The former is the shortest song on the record, meaning that it’s not even 3 minutes, but it’s one of the catchiest songs on the record. The latter has quite mediocre lyrics, but it’s a rather cutesy song that does hold its own. And coincidentally, the last two tracks, which are the title track, and then eleventh track “Symptoms,” also form another one-two punch combo to end the album quite nicely. I would have to say that “When It Was Now” is probably my other favorite track on the record, along with “Trojans.” “Symptoms” is the second song I actually listened to from the band; they put it on iTunes for free download of the week, and I downloaded it a couple days before I bought the record, so I had something of theirs to listen to. And this song is a nice closing track. I didn’t expect it to be the closing track, but it still works, because it’s a rather memorable song. It does close out the album nicely, and I definitely want to listen to it again. There’s nothing really left to be desired, because it’s a nice dose of indie-rock with indie-pop sensibility. It’s a very nice mix of both genres, and this band can easily transition between the two, so it doesn’t sound awkward or strange whatsoever. In other words, this is a band that I can see blowing up in the same vein as Imagine Dragons, or the Lumineers. There’s so much talent, and so much appeal within this band that I have a sixth sense that they’re going to get more popular quite soon. If they don’t, I’ll be darned.