New York electro-pop trio Challenger
claim to be born out of desperation
. And though they’re mired in self-doubt and emotional confusion, their debut LP, The World Is Too Much For Me
, proves that they’re fighting back against the shadows in their collective brain space.
The key, it seems, is to make your fears less frightening. “Are You Scared Too” is a gentle whisper amid a sea of sparse keys for someone to relate and hold on to while the world tries its best to undo you; when the beat morphs into a funky bass groove, it’s like two hands finally meeting in the dark. And when those two sad creatures finally have each other, they create a mantra in the title track: “I know our love can save us / If you want it to.” The strain is uttered on top of a glitchy synth line, like a secret communication only they can ever hear.
But love isn’t the only thing that saves the day. “I Am Switches” sees the band’s protagonist take responsibility, celebrating his love of a scary world with saxophones and declarations stating “I am my behavior.” Through the digital clutter, it comes down to being able to make connections through swelling inner peace. He’s so elated, in fact, that he can sing “Don’t Die”, which is as much a self-affirmation as it is a slow-building taunt backed by atmospheric guitar.
And with all the emotional pieces in play, only then can they earn the final act of “Age of Apathy Reprise”, a cinematic tune of keys that straddle the line between hope and despair. It demonstrates that the war for your own soul can’t be won over the course of an album, but you can win a hell of a lot of battles.
Essential Tracks: “Are You Scared Too”, “I Am Switches”