Following on from their debut album Rescue, Samoans are back with their second offering Laika self released on the bands own “Apres-vous” records.
Driving in to the album with a perpetual rhythm on drums, album opener 'Second Tongue', builds slowly with soaringly spaced melodies reminiscent of desert roads and night skies. For an album opener though, the track runs a little long without really showcasing the bands competency.
This is quickly remedied in the album’s second track, 'Monuments', with infinitely more interesting dynamics than its predecessor. The real shame about Monuments however is the fantastic hook is used too sparsely. With hooks that good you don’t need to be shy about using them, lads.
In truth the record feels like a grower from early on, the riff from 'Blindsided' screams future single, with a more conformed approach to the guitars than in earlier tracks the vocal canon holds up as a hook, all neatly packaged in to 3 and a half minutes.
Production wise the record holds up well, balancing finely between the searing stadium rock sound and a more melancholic tortured voice. This intricate equilibrium is most clear on 'Future Ghost', not just a nod to where the band have come from, but an example of the versatility the band are capable of. Composed of a much softer tone, the combination suits the resonance behind Barnett’s words; before illustrating the groups ability to build from a sonic whisper to a tsunami-level crescendo.
In the final act of the record, 'Satellites', comes across as the magnum opus of the record, an altogether smarter song with better hooks, better harmonies and more of those enticing dynamics the band have displayed they’re more than capable of handling. Underlined with an acoustic chord progression and minimalist arpeggios the true eye opener of this track is just how good the vocals are; the best track on the record by some margin. That’s not to say the vocals have been lacking up to now, just “Satellites” has some almost Corenll-esque moments in it. Particularly the opening line “I’m alive”.
As they draw in to the close of the record, the group really start to experiment, particularly with the sheer wall of noise present at the end of 'Forcefield' before cutting it sharply closed. Conceptually the record instills a desire to go beyond boundaries, go beyond the path once walked in to the open, even as far as naming the record after the first canine sent in to space.
In terms of second releases Laika is a risk for the group to be sure, fans of the band’s first release may find themselves alienated by the braver conceptual approach, but it works. The sound is more thought-out, the track listing better considered and the overall sonic fingerprint more cohesive. Space searching themes and hauntingly lonely sonic builds might not be your go-to, but if you need a record for a late night drive, Laika will most certainly scratch the itch.