With what is now a string of five albums in eight years, bands like Arctic Monkeys rarely come around nowadays. After releasing their first two albums in consecutive years, they’ve quietly taken a year off in between their following three albums and have solidified their mainstay as one of music’s most classically influenced and in turn, one of the most stunningly blissful bands around. Inspired by the album VU, by the Velvet Underground, Alex Turner and his fellow monkeys have stated in interviews that they’ve reached a certain level of individualism and content with their current sound and style: it felt right to simply initial this fifth album, AM.
After their first two albums showcased a band able to play any rhythm, any tempo, literally any stop-on-a-dime-throw-in-a-chant-before-the-bottom-falls-out-and-the-drums-explode manifestation, they altered their overall essence with Humbug’s cloudy and darkening production. Following the production, songs like “Dance Little Liar” still basked in heavenly crafted seams that featured sequencing and care to dynamics and composition, but with a much looser structure, before returning to a poppier scope on Suck it and See. Here, songs like “The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala” sparkled with the same kind of shimmering guitars and uptempo verses that sung loudly on their openers. Now, they’ve combined everything onto an album that celebrates where they currently are as a band and where they’ve come.
The opening stomp of “Do I Wanna Know?” features some of the best production Arctic Monkeys have flashed to date, with a steady beat that is built off hand claps and physical stomps, around Turner’s questioning if he really wants to know whether his latest tease’s feelings are mutual. With the band chanting underneath him, “Sad to see you go…” he calls back “sort of wishing that you’d stay” and it starts the album off with both a strong presence of atmosphere and a flat-out blistering pace. It’s arguably the strongest song on AM and it highlights this new combination of dynamic styles and impressively crafted beats.
There are songs like “Fireside,” where an intriguing beat takes the spotlight and though Turner’s accent and cadence is still utterly to die for, Arctic Monkeys’ focus is towards a balanced approach. You can almost feel the fire dancing around the band as they engage in what some would say is a hip-hop influenced stroll – Outkast would be proud. A lot’s been mentioned about the band taking to an after midnight kind of listen where stories of the early morning are reconvened and rehashed for all our pleasure but it’s not like they haven’t lamented about the challenge of love during the night before (see “Cornerstone.”) Instead, it’s an all-encompassing vibe that’s present, especially on the closing “I Wanna Be Yours.” If on the opener Turner is unsure about the inevitable, here he’s unabashedly laying his heart on his sleeve to the backdrop of a slinky jaunt that simply melts away into the night.
There won’t be any kind of “Brianstorm,” or even a “Mardy Bum” to relish in; instead Arctic Monkeys have beguiled earlier songs like “505” and have fleshed them out and ingrained all they can convey. The final outcome is an album that is downright brilliant and one that continues in a line of consistently great releases. In the end AM not only signifies a career-defining moment that neatly places the band on a proper pedestal for all to admire – this is where not only Arctic Monkeys have come but in many ways, how they’ve masterfully conquered and continue to simply win.