To say I’ve been anticipating a sophomore album from Drowners is probably the understatement of the century. I’ve been restless since Cruel Ways was released in early March and the anticipation has been building tenfold since hearing almost all of the other album tracks during our week at SXSW. If the stark white of the album art is any indication, this record feels like an entirely new era for Drowners; a fresh start if you will. The addition of shimmery keyboards and pulsing synths were something I questioned initially, but with each track it became clear that they were the perfect formula for a cohesive, sonically satisfying record. Matt Hitt’s whip smart lyricism remains intact throughout; something that I came to love about the first record and which has only improved in the almost 2 years between albums.
It is nearly impossible to compare On Desire to the first Drowners album, and that is what makes it so mesmerizing. There is no single track that sounds similar to their earlier works, but On Desire clearly showcases their evolution as a band. Something as simple as a deeper bass line on “Human Remains” gives the track a more focused, sharper edge that surges through all 3 minutes and 51 seconds of the song. (Almost every song clocks in at just under 4 minutes while the earlier songs were barely 2 minutes long; another sharp contrast that works so well.) As the title suggests, desire is at the heart of each and every song; desire for understanding, desire for a relationship, desire for the unattainable and even desire for the unknown. All of these concepts are the undercurrent that carry the weight of the lyrics and blend them with danceable melodies and electric intricacy. Despite the darker themes, On Desire strikes a perfect balance between melodic sensibility and lyrical density and therefore cements this album into my number one spot for favorite album of 2016.