Sarah Graham, Chattanooga, Tenn. – Change is the name of the musical game with Irish band Bell X1. After 20 years on the music scene and seven studio albums under their belts, it would be fairly easy to keep producing the same sounds that made them successful on the alternative scene for the last two decades.
Released on Oct. 14, their new album, Arms, is far and away from their previous sound, last heard in 2011’s Bloodless Coup.
Bloodless Coup is a black light rave while Arms is a hole-in-the-wall coffee shop that moonlights as a dive bar. Bloodless Coup is hard synth beats backed with melancholia while Arms is earnestly simple indie echoed in catchy refrains.
Arms will appeal to fans of Bon Iver, Halsey and Sixto Rodriguez, with ambiguous moods that can shift to fit any situation or occasion. Want to dance? Arms. Broke up with your significant other? Arms. Need to listen to good music for no reason at all? Strange but, Arms.
Nearly every one of the nine tracks is an indie gem. Nuanced lyrics by lead singer Paul Noonan are perfectly accompanied by killer guitar grooves and driving bass lines from band mates David Geraghty and Dominic Phillips.
“Fail Again, Fail Better” is my personal favorite and new alarm ringtone, followed closely by “Out of Love,” which happens to be playing on repeat as I write this. In fact, the only track that drags the record down is “The Upswing,” ironically. It’s far too “slow dance” repetitive for my taste, but even then it is not an objectively bad song.
Bell X1 write on their website that this album was put into motion back in 2014 but gave them quite a bit of trouble in nailing down the sound and what they wanted the album to portray as a whole. They struggled with wanting to let it go, to let this new sound be put out into the world and face possible rejection.
I, for one, am very glad they let it go when they did. To me, it is one of the best albums I’ve ever heard. Bell X1 has certainly found a new fan in this writer, and if it resonates with others as much as it did with me, I am not the only one.