Review by Shannon Shumaker
It’s impossible to be in a bad mood when listening to Gruff Rhys’ new album, American Interior. The entirety of the record is incredibly upbeat and catchy, and on top of that, the different musical stylings throughout each track manage to keep the album interesting and unique - no two songs on American Interior sound the same. In some tracks, the vocals are most prominent, (such as the album’s title track and “Walk Into The Wilderness”) in other tracks, the synth parts are especially catchy, and then in others, the song is carried by strong bass lines or piano parts. There’s a healthy balance all throughout American Interior, and it makes sense, considering the album was inspired by Gruff Rhys’ experience following his distant relative’s footsteps all over the United States. Inspiration has been drawn from everywhere, and it absolutely shows.
In fact, the coolest thing about this album is the story it tells. Gruff Rhys wrote this record about his distant relative and 18th century explorer, John Evans. And even though American Interior is about a story that is hundreds of years old, it still manages to stay relevant. Some tracks on the album are very psychedelic and easy going, reminiscent of acts such as The Flaming Lips, while others are simpler, stripped down and raw. Even without knowing about the background story of the entire album, it’s a great listen, but knowing the full story just makes it that much more enjoyable.
American Interior is an album for the explorer in all of us, as it absolutely takes the listener on a journey. The album fades in with a cinematic prelude of sorts, into the first song, “American Interior,” with gorgeous, haunting vocals that really pull you into the album. “100 Unread Messages,” follows “American Interior,” and is a more upbeat track with a great transition. Again, the vocals are incredibly strong and the falsetto in the chorus is especially great. The piano shines in “The Last Conquistador,” which is easily one of the strongest, most emotional tracks on the record, and also sound great in the closing track, “Tiger’s Tale.” “The Swamp” is another standout on American Interior, alongside “lolo” which has an incredible, cinematic string section. “Lost Tribe,” serves as an airy, almost filler track, but it really sets the mood for the second half of the album and really pulls you into the story - it’s spiritual and gorgeous.
American Interior is the perfect soundtrack for an adventure. Every song on this record tells a story over a hundred years in the making, but still manages to stay relevant for the modern explorer. It’s easy to get lost in the gorgeous melodies and the airy, laid back vibe of this album, which will keep it pumping through your speakers for months to come!
Listen to "The Last Conquistador"