Cover photo: Bridgette Aikens
December 24, 2018
“I wake up every day but nothing’s changed. It’s still the same.” This line from the opening track of the latest Shadowgraphs album, Another Time, resonates with the new release in a way that even the band may not have expected, because for this once Charlotte-based group, everything has changed. After nearly two years since the release of their breakout full-length album Venomous Blossoms, the band has toured the country, written and recorded new work, and uprooted themselves from the comfort of their Charlotte home, traversing the country to stake their claim in the artistic haven of Portland, Oregon.
While Another Time was mostly completed before this new endeavor west was set in stone, a closer look at the record reveals just how much Shadowgraphs has evolved from their previous releases. At a first glance, the vocals carry a much stronger presence, most notably in the consistent harmonies from dual vocalists Bryan Olson and Wils Glade, an inclusion which has been seldom heard in earlier works from the band. From the moment the record starts off, the two singers demonstrate a mastered combination of their voices, a highlight which carries through all of Another Time.
In addition to this welcomed expansion, Shadowgraphs have also stepped beyond the threshold of their ‘70s-inspired psychedelic sound, a distinct style which defined the band in their earlier years. Another Time seems to embrace the contemporary sounds of indie rock, combining new influence with their hallmarked experimental roots to create a more mature soundscape that’s perfectly tailored to the new-and-improved Shadowgraphs.
Glade, a founding member of the band, credits this sonic development to a change in approach, explaining at length the differences between how Venomous Blossoms was brought to life as opposed to the new material.
“The process was more straightforward and simplified being that we worked digitally this time around,” he said. “Another Time was recorded with a bunch of analog gear but to the computer, so we were able to work a lot faster and really nail down some things without having to worry about nailing takes in one pass. Each song on this record has a lot more layers than the last, and I think we really went to town with vocals on this one.”
This multi-layering has allowed Shadowgraphs to tap into a new side of their sound, exploring how to fill the empty space that the ethereal vocals and hypnotizing synthesizers leave behind. One of the songs on the new record that has most benefited from this technique is “Before the Time,” a predominantly minimalist track that brings to mind a smoke-filled club, dimly lit and hazy. That is, until the sounds of a lone, screeching guitar come sauntering in. Coupled and battling with the smooth hum of the bass behind the vocals, this song wholly demonstrates Glade’s remarks on what the band became capable of with this record in contrast with Venomous Blossoms.
For as catchy, engaging and mesmerizing as the music of Another Time is, the lyrics can easily be lost in the background. Olson and Glade have voices that can shine when they need to and fall back when the music needs to take hold. The only problem with that is losing out on one of the band’s best features: their words. Given how much these guys have seen in the time between releases and how deeply based the lyrics are in those experiences, that facet of the album instantly becomes one of the most important. Glade explained what brought about these latest musings, unraveling the sometimes-cryptic metaphors of Shadowgraphs: “We wrote and recorded the album while Bryan was starting to break down his studio and move out of his house to Portland. I was getting ready to follow, so we were both in this kind of crazy headspace. This past year has definitely been a whirlwind for the both of us.”
He continued, “I would say the US tour we had last summer was pretty extraordinary. We had all of these amazing experiences on the road and got to see a good chunk of this beautiful country. We also had time to reflect during those long drives and really reconnect with ourselves in a way that is impossible when you’re doing the nine-to-five.”
Those respective headspaces are reflected in Another Time’s lyrics but, with the music sometimes overpowering the words, a dedicated, focused listener is all but required to get to the core of meaning. This brings about another feature of Shadowgraph’s music. It’s not for the lazy or lackadaisical. If you want to know this band, you’ve got to dig deeper.
Another Time is a reflection of the hard work, long hours, and focus of Shadowgraphs. They are wholly themselves with this release, but a different version of that self. It’s clear that Shadowgraphs has chosen to grow as they embark on new adventure westward, armed with a new record and a bright future. Whatever the future may hold for the Charlotte hometown heroes, things are looking up for the artists.