Category: Press

Sadie Magazine
Album Review: The Shondes, Searchlights

by Elliot Smith

There is a sense of urgency and desperation that runs throughout the Shondes’ new album, Searchlights. The record sounds like it was written as the soundtrack to a film in which the lead character emerges from personal crisis, not without injury, but healing. If this makes the album sound like a mopey, depressing document of trauma, then I’ve given you the wrong idea. If Searchlights dwells on our troubles, it does so in a spirit of confronting them, wrestling them to the ground, and walking away intact. And it’s not all about the teary side of life anyway; “Coney Island Tonight,” for example, may share the album’s direness and angst, but is really about the exhilarating notion of running away with someone, if just for a few hours, to escape the complications of everyday life.

There is a sense of urgency and desperation that runs throughout the Shondes’ newest album, Searchlights. The record sounds like it was written as the soundtrack to a film in which the lead character emerges from personal crisis, not without injury, but healing. If this makes the album sound like a mopey, depressing document of trauma, then I’ve given you the wrong idea. If Searchlights dwells on our troubles, it does so in a spirit of confronting them, wrestling them to the ground, and walking away intact. And it’s not all about the teary side of life anyway; “Coney Island Tonight,” for example, may share the album’s direness and angst, but is really about the exhilarating notion of running away with someone, if just for a few hours, to escape the complications of everyday life.

Lead vocalist Louisa Solomon sings each song as if she’s getting something off her chest after holding it in for too long. Indeed, her lyrics often address an unnamed “you.” “You’re too gutless to meet me today.” “I wish I could tell you everything.” “What are you afraid of?” “You know this isn’t right, can we just have a fair fight?” “I can’t help it that you were the one that night.” “The world will be bright again, I promise you.” While Soloman may have a particular someone, or a few someones, in mind, her themes are universal: the excitement of giving yourself wholly to another and the frustration of overinvestment in a fallible human being.

Musically, the Shondes’ sound is equal parts punk and pop. The band takes its formidable energy from punk. From pop, the band takes melodicism; a knack for hooks and sing-a-long-able choruses; and inward-looking lyrics (even if the Shondes delve deeper into our emotions and express them more intelligently). Instrumentally, the band is a bit of an oddity. Yes, there are hard-driving drums, churning power chords, and [there is] a steady bass. But Elijah Oberman’s violin is also an integral part of the band’s sound. He’s no novelty sideman or occasional soloist; these songs simply would not sound the same (or as good) without him. Imagine Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane” without Scarlet Rivera’s plaintive bowing and you’ll get a sense of his indispensability.

Searchlights is a short album: ten songs, just one over four minutes and nine others under 3:30. It’s a shot in the arm, perhaps prescribed most urgently for those times when you can take strength from identification with its themes. Don’t be surprised, however, if you find yourself administering the album time and again long after the malaise has passed.