Friday saw the release of US trio A R I Z O N A‘s second studio album, ASYLUM. After a week of teasing its release on Instagram, this is the return to the forefront of music for one of the best up and coming electronic acts.
To those still unfamiliar with A R I Z O N A, they are a West-Coast electro-pop trio. They garnered critical acclaim for their debut album, GALLERY in 2017, with songs such as I Was Wrong and the masterpiece that is Oceans Away. Don Diablo worked with them for 2018’s Take Her Place. And if that still does not ring a bell, they also collaborated with the late Tim “Avicii” Bergling, for his post-humous song Hold The Line.
The new album had been long-awaited, as singles had been dripping out for the past few months. Nostalgic, Find Someone and Freaking Out were each worthy of praises for the quality of the lyrics, the originality of their melodies, and how faithful they remained to GALLERY‘s DNA.
On first thought, one could feel frustrated by ASYLUM. Especially with regards to the quality forecasted by the early releases. It turns out that they are A R I Z O N A’s stand-out productions on this record. The 9-song, 28-minute run time is also surprisingly short for such an anticipated album. And it does take time to find a purpose to the album, linking a heterogeneous list of singles.
But once you do find it, it is inescapably beautiful.
Truth be told, the answer is in the title itself. ASYLUM was both a safe haven for the band while in production and an engaging piece of art. All songs deal with serious issues, ranging from heartbreak to addictions. It offers respite to the listener, through soothing melodies and engaging lyrics.
“While writing ASYLUM, the studio became a safe space for us when we felt like we were losing our minds – we found comfort and strength in each other, in our friendship, and in these songs.”from Instagram, dated October 10th, 2019
As ‘Let Me Know’, ‘Where You Are‘, ‘Don’t Leave‘ and ‘Nostalgic’ introduce us to the album, they are reminders of A R I Z O N A’s style. These are not ordinary love songs, nor are they boringly melancholic. Rather, they surprise by the vivacity of the feelings depicted.
The definite turning point lies with ‘Find Someone‘, as the narrator abandons not only his lover but the subject altogether. Central to the album, A R I Z O N A show just how well they have matured both musically and content-wise.
The second half leans on towards mental and behavioral issues, topics close to the band’s heart. ‘Trouble‘, ‘Problems‘ and ‘Freaking Out‘ are both confessions and cries for help. Many people can likely relate to this, in our troubled times, especially in the world of EDM.
‘Problems‘ is this album’s hidden gem. ‘Still Alive‘, the final track is a worthy and hopeful conclusion.
Whereas GALLERY often brought more somber feelings and melodies, ASYLUM is boldly joyful. The rich use of synth and fast-paced rhythms clashes with the seriousness of the lyrics. Enveloping their subjects in a positive atmosphere is a clever guise to touch upon otherwise sensitive issues.
Although it may take a second listen to find your way through, ASYLUM is a worthy follow up to GALLERY.