There’s always been a lushness to Other Lives, and that sound has earned them high-profile fans including Radiohead and Bon Iver. While their embrace of acoustic instrumentation has led many to label them a folk group, they reach beyond that label with their third album, the dynamic and expansive Rituals.
Rituals is a feat of production and arrangement, with each melody flourishing against immaculate percussion. The band fills the entire space of the album, conjuring up a true “headphones record.” While some of the ideas here have been pegged to past Other Lives records, the band and co-producer Joey Waronker (Atoms for Peace) are now executing them with greater precision.
“English Summer”, which features vocal harmonies against a swarm of piano and horns, could easily sound too busy in another band’s hands. Yet Other Lives make each layer feel like a tasteful addition. Despite all the moving parts, the track’s emotional core rings hollow. “2 Pyramids” takes the opposite approach, combining the strings and booming drums to create one of the most ambitious songs in the band’s catalog. Frontman Jesse Tabish’s slightly monotone vocals coalesce fluidly with massive compositions. The smooth timbre of his voice feels like it was designed to be part of an orchestra.
Some songs on Rituals feel like they’ve been lifted from another century altogether, like the pizzicato stylings of “New Fog” or the airy strings of closer “Ritual”. Where those tracks deviate to the “older” end of the spectrum, “Pattern” feels like a glimpse into the future. As one of the brightest moments on the album, featuring a brilliant falsetto from Tabish, it helps lift the experience of the album out from its emotional heaviness.
Listening to Rituals is like slipping into a hazy dream or listening to a classical thrift shop find. It’s charming and enveloping, but more importantly, it sets up Other Lives for future efforts now that their folk ties have been shed.
Essential Tracks: “2 Pyramids”, “English Summer”, and “Pattern”