Traveling to new horizons
Thrice twists through sound and substance to establish a diverse assortment of atmosphere in their latest release, Horizons/East. Thrice’s 11th studio album presents the alternative rock genre coated in synth-heavy blends of production.
Right off the first few seconds of the opening track, “The Colors of the Sky,” Thrice opens doors to a sound mixed with ambiguity. A revolving synth line warps calmly through the song, brewing peacefully, as lead singer Dustin Kensrue’s husky vocal delivery chimes in, singing, “My first and foremost memory is staring up in wonder at the wall.” It’s a moment filled with nostalgia and reverie, establishing the balance of contrasting sounds and influences ranging from alternative rock, indie and more to follow in the rest of the album.
Kensrue experiments with several diverse vocal deliveries, which mixes with the reverberating guitar licks and pulsating synths layered throughout the album. “Buried in the Sun” is such an example with Kensrue shouting over a gritty guitar and a prickly beat—”I saw the fire on the television – The DOD or the CIA?”—before a sleek guitar line rolls through the established melody; Kensrue switches up his voice accordingly, in a smooth vocal delivery—”The blood-red, the black gold, this is the air we breathe.” With the context of the lyrics, it’s a delivery packed with both wonder and sorrow. The contrast of the two moods is a thematic balance that Thrice achieves throughout the album, one that both berates and appreciates the state of the world we live in. The album has no trouble representing these lyrical themes through distinct production choices. Going back to “Buried in the Sun,” the track’s use of gritty guitar lines and an echoing percussion almost resembles what being buried in the sun would sound like—a blend of gravelly and unfiltered noise, packed with heavy basslines that permeate through the layers of sound.
The album’s ability to establish a specific atmosphere is extremely significant to the overall thematic elements of the music. With each track, Thrice seems to pull listeners into their world and into a specific set piece, much of which are displayed right in the titles of the tracks. “Northern Lights,” for example, begins with a simple arrangement of vibrant piano keys before being taken away by a series of melodious guitar strings, carrying a certain ambiance of trekking north through layers of wilderness. Meanwhile, “Still Life” channels plucking, light guitar licks that sound like a calming, airy rustling against the heavier, more rigorous strumming before hammering into a single fluctuating guitar line filled with emotion.
Other tracks, including “Summer Set Fire to the Rain” and “Dandelion Wine,” also incorporate the album’s seemingly nature-based themes. Both tracks channel a visceral amount of energy, filled with both passion and feelings of aggravation as the heavy production is mixed with Kensrue shouting lines such as “The snow is falling like ash.” Lines such as these, similarly to the blend of delicate synths and hefty guitars in the music’s production, achieve a mix of levied ambiance and weighted moodiness.
The storytelling in both Thrice’s lyrics and production in Horizons/East is distinct in its ability to balance a number of paralleled moods, regardless of its place on the spectrum of emotion. By taking these musical influences and blending genres, the album establishes a very specific mood of longing—longing for a departure of the status quo, longing for change, yet acknowledging that despite the negatives, our world is riddled with a peaceful ambiance to be appreciated which is just the nature of things.