Easter Island‘s second album found me at a weird time in my life. I was listening to the early review copy late last year when I was coming to grips with the fact that I might lose most of my family within a single month. It felt like cruel irony that this haunting meditation on love, loss, and finding something to live for would land in my lap right when I least wanted to hear it.
The brothers Payne, along with the multi-instrumentalist Ryan Monahan, bassist Justin Ellis, and drummer John Swint, have taken years to meticulously craft a musical gut punch wrapped in satin. Take All… is a wistful and poignant reminder of the hell we’ve just all been through and how much further we’ve got to go.
Lyrically, you’ll be moving from room to room through scenes painted in soft melodies, supported by muted harmonies, revolving around breathing and blankets and parties you can’t attend. The sheer amount of yearning vibrating through the record is borderline overwhelming. There’s little respite for the weary-minded here and by the end of the album, you’ll need it. It’s the same way musically as well.
Frightened, their 2012 release, at least had some upbeat energy to it to lighten the load. What little bit of edge the impeccably polished band had is absent here, leaving you to suffocate in the admittedly gorgeous orchestration. The thing that gets me here is all of the parts are placed in a way that signals equal importance on each song. The drums, usually my favorite part, have been pushed back in the mix. The high-flying guitars that I’m a sucker for don’t stand out as much as they should.
None of this is to say that the record is bad or boring. Far from it. “Always Room for Another” is a bright and shining star of a song with an outward momentum that builds throughout and twists into satisfying branches of melody. This will be an amazing song to witness live when we can gather safely once more. “Smoke” is another notable here, drifting along like the rest but with a vocal melody that is ever so slightly off the beat. The tension between what you are expecting and what you get keep you from slipping under the waves of sound.
If you’re in the mood for something chill to put on while you’re wandering from one end of your apartment to the other, this is a good one. I’d also highly recommend it for when you’re lying on the floor contemplating how life could possibly go on after the year you’ve had.
Overall, Take All… is a gorgeous record full of subtle tunes but lacks the bite and energy of the band’s debut. Every song feels like it is reaching towards a deeper meaning or a slightly darker place but doesn’t have the conviction to fully follow through. Easter Island knows that the depths of grief and love are down there but are more content to stand on the edge of the sea gazing past the horizon than to plumb that ocean. I get it. Some injuries are too fresh to allow yourself that painful rage. But it is cathartic from time to time.