New Arctic Monkeys album ‘AM’ dials up sound

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Photo via wikimedia.org

Photo via wikimedia.org

Arctic Monkeys blew up in 2006 with its debut album “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not.” The band rode a wave of hype that many thought could only crash in the ruins of Brit-rock forgone, a la Oasis.

But with the band’s newest album, “AM,” officially released Tuesday, fans will only keep coming back for more, giving the band’s wave of success new momentum.

Arctic Monkeys fifth studio album, “AM,” continues the evolution of the band’s sound and features some of its best songs to date, with standouts like “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High” and “Do I Wanna Know.” While the group’s previous album “Suck It and See” was devoid of memorable singles, but a gem as a whole, “AM” is both a great album with hits to boot.

At this point in the band’s career it would be a misrepresentation to continue to call Arctic Monkeys an indie band. “AM” continues the trend started by its riff-heavy third album “Humbug,” produced by Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme, who also makes a guest appearance on “AM.” This album instead moves away from the band’s gruff indie Brit-rock sound and solidifies the group’s psychedelic sound.

A downbeat groove dominates the album, with falsetto harmonies and choruses coming from drummer Matt Helders and bassist Nick O’Malley. Synthesizers figure prominently in many of the songs and complement the new falsetto harmonies. Still, the Arctic Monkeys’ sound is familiar and builds upon the changes they’ve made during the past seven years, making “AM” a definite high point, if not the pinnacle of the band’s run.

The album channels decades of rock’ n’ roll, reaching back into the ’60s and ’70s while managing to sound fresh. “Arabella” instantly brings to mind Black Sabbath’s album “Paranoid,” using a riff straight from Tony Iommi’s playbook.

“Mad Sounds” is inspired by a Velvet Underground Lou Reed circa 1967 – the album’s title is even inspired by The Velvet Underground’s record “VU.”

“No. 1 Party Anthem” is a David Bowie inspired piece if there ever was one, giving the album a healthy dose of glam. Remember those falsetto lyrics? They play nicely throughout, becoming a comfortable part of the scenery.

“AM” even manages to blend hip-hop into the mix with the single “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High.” Frontman Alex Turner takes a Dr. Dre beat and manages to make a hit out of a song shaming booty calls. It recalls his earlier songs and their equally wry lyrics, examining the club scene and despite of the title “AM” manages to be a more mature creation.

Turner’s lyrics are, as always, clever and precise, setting the scene with each word like carefully chosen poetry. The scene is a familiar, a late night or “three in the morning” with someone on the mind. Nostalgia has often been a theme for the group and is featured prominently on “AM.” Turner is especially poignant on singles “R U Mine” and “Do I Wanna Know,” which beg to be played on repeat.

While many of the Arctic Monkeys’ contemporaries have struggled to evolve and change their sound to create this effect (see our review of Franz Ferdinand’s latest), “AM” continues the band’s progress, making one of its best albums to date.