Posted March 27, 2013
By MELISSA CASTILLO
Atlas Genius recently joined the alternative music scene from down under in 2011.
Just a couple years later it was No. 4 on Billboard’s Alternative Songs list with the hit “Trojans.”
The main line is so simple and yet so difficult to shake, “Your trojans in my head.” This is followed by similar harmonies heard in the majority of the group’s equally catchy songs.
With “Trojans” still holding ground at the top of the list as No. 7, Atlas Genius has quickly become part of the new wave of indie bands. This includes alternative groups that formed in the past few years, such as Imagine Dragons and Foster the People. Their commonalities are the whimsical tunes, with simple and somewhat ambiguous lyrics, balanced with some slow paced songs.
Atlas Genius’s originality is its distinct 1980s pop influence. This includes Keith Jeffrey on guitar, his brothers Michael on drums and Steven on bass, and their friend Darren Sell on keyboard. Their instrumentation is complemented by the contemporary rock style of Keith’s soothing, addicting voice.
Atlas Genius’s EP, “Through the Glass,” was instantaneously popular in the alternative scene back in August 2012. It was only natural to have high hopes for its first album, “When It Was Now,” recently released on Feb. 19.
Despite the band’s talent and potential, expectations were set too high. Some of the best songs on the album are those that were already released on the EP, including “Trojans,” “Back Seat,” and “Symptoms.” And while these songs have not lost their appeal, the majority of their new songs, including “All These Girls” and “Don’t Make a Scene,” share too many similarities.
The primary reason for this is because Keith’s voice is an ideal mixture of Ben Gibbard’s from Death Cab for Cutie and Jesse Lacey’s from Brand New, but he failed to deliver variety. Both of these alternative bands peaked in the early 2000s and released a variety of successful songs.
Gibbard has an overall slow and melodious voice, while Lacey’s voice tends to be louder and dominant. Yet, each of their voices has reached other sides of the vocal spectrum. Keith needs to prove he can use more than just the similar pitch in every song.
Before it’s realized that there isn’t much variety in this album, the songs are enjoyable, especially the first track “Electric.” Electronic, 1980s sounds resonate as the memorable line “we could fall,” joyously repeats throughout the song. It’s the sort of tune to listen to at the beginning of a roller coaster when it’s inching towards the top and building suspense. Head bobbing and the urge to dance are uncontrollable.
This upbeat mood continues with the following track, “If so.”
The transition into the next song, “Back Seat,” shows that there was thought put into the organization of the album tracks. The ambiance is changed in a subtle way by slightly slowing down the pace. The keyboard notes remain upbeat in the background, while Keith’s voice relaxes.
Also, the lyrics are somber in comparison to the previous songs. There’s imagery such as, “Words like knives that no longer cut.” As well as thoughtful lines such as, “We’re complicated but we’re as simple as we wanted to be.”
A similar song is “Through the Glass.” This is the slowest out of the band’s 11 tracks and the best of its new songs. “Through the Glass” portrays the songwriting skills that tend to get lost in typical four-word chorus’s in other tracks. The metaphors in this song allude to the human condition of oblivious ignorance, such as the first line, “I thought you’d see me through the glass but you only caught your reflection.” And even finer lines, “We’re dressed up like humans/Like we know who we are.”
In between the two somber songs of the album, “Back Seat” and “Through the Glass,” is the track that brought Atlas Genius to stardom, “Trojans.” There’s certainly a reason why it’s so popular. It’s incredibly catchy. Essentially, it’s a delightful balance between the mellow mood of “Through the Glass” and the lively personality of “Electric.”
The rhythm of Keith’s voice creates the sensation of walking through a field of dandelions, with arms swaying in the wind, and face lifted towards the sun. The only downside is that it has been overplayed.
The appeal of the album disappears after these few songs. The second half seems rehashed and is basically a cheaper version of their better work. Although Atlas Genius certainly has musical talent, but it needs to add some variety instead of trying to make versions of already popular songs.
- Album: “When It Was Now”
- Band Members: Atlas Genius is Keith Jeffery (vocalist and guitarist), Michael Jeffery (drums), Steven Jeffery (bass), Darren Sell (keyboards)
- Label: Warner Bros. Records
- Release date: Feb. 19, 2013
- Formats: CD on Amazon for $7.99; downloadable on iTunes for $9.99
- Origin: Adelaide, South Australia
- Genre: Indie rock
- Years active: 2011-present