Inoffensive and mostly unexceptionable indie rock
There’s nothing on 5 Billion in Diamonds’ second full-length project, Divine Accidents, that warrants anger. Conversely, there’s not a ton on the project that provokes all that much excitement either. After the first four tracks, the album settles comfortable into a limbo of musical complacency and indifference. It’s a project that’s tough to critique all that aggressively because there is no one track, or series of tracks, that passes a certain threshold into the type of maddeningly bad musical territory that actually warrants a scolding. The thing is though, for a band led by alt legend/Nevermind producer Butch Vig, and flanked by The Soundtrack of Our Lives frontman Ebbot Lundberg and Bristol-based producer Andy Jenks, this middling space of nebulous and uninspiring quality is nowhere near enough.
For all its flaws, the album actually does start quite strong. The title track introduces the band at its best—locked into weightless, melancholy and well-structured indie rock. The “what goes around comes around” chorus is a ton of fun, and made even more earwormy by the flowery guitar and vocal melodies. It’s entertaining and extremely satisfying from start to finish, and acts like a solid example of what the band was probably chasing on the more disappointing second half of the project. Next is “Colour You In,” another melancholy beauty. The band continues to write from a place of wisdom and vast life experience. Much like the first track, the instrumentation is not here to surprise or startle, it simply exists as undergirding for the lovely and affecting emotionality of Helen White’s gorgeously airy vocals.
“Let It Get Away From You” keeps up the momentum with a great guitar solo and more fantastic vocals and melodies, despite the song’s underwhelming chorus. “The Unknown” concludes the most potent section of Divine Accidents with poetic lyrics like “So should we take to the hills/ Or maybe escape on these pills/ Wander through time on our own/ Or stake a claim to the beginning/ When you and me were meant to be.” The carefully curated and often sparse production make the deeply personal story even more impactful.
Then, people have reached a crossroads. It’s at this point in the album, namely “Formaldehyde,” that the downswing begins. From here on out, the project slowly blends together into a mess of lackluster versions of songs that the band have already done before (and better). Almost none of the impact that exists on the first four tracks appears on the latter half hour of music. As previously mentioned, the project never strays into the land of outright terrible music, but it couldn’t be more obvious that they can and should be performing better.
One of the strongest contrasts lies in the lyrics. While the band was nakedly sentimental in a way that bordered on sappy in the stronger tracks, they never broke that barrier. Their honesty felt open, admirable and relatable. The rest of the project is mostly the opposite. Lines like “Inside you forever/ We will always be together” sound borderline stalker-ish, and the band’s seeming lack of interest in building beyond their most basic instrumental ambitions is far from enough to save these tracks. “Into Your Symphony” and “Witches” are practically empty, and “Dive In Me” isn’t that much better. “Hurt No More” is probably the only exception to the rule on the second half of the album, but that’s because it actually leans into something worth exploring: the band’s use of electronics, incredibly delicate strings and White’s breathtaking voice.
What people have here is a somewhat sluggish 11 tracks, some of which are definitely worth giving a chance, but most of which aren’t all that impressive. With a roster like this, it’s hard not to bring high expectations, and that unfortunately makes this project even more disheartening. 5 Billion in Diamonds are still unquestionably worth paying attention to, and there is good music on Divine Accidents, it’s just hidden under a pile of of unexceptional and truly frustrating vapidity.