There are artists who need to surround themselves with people to find their inspiration, and then there are artists who prefer to sink into solitude. For British folk-rock band Dry the River, isolation was the key to creating their new album, Alarms in the Heart. The guys went all the way to Iceland to find their space and build their sound. The results are pure perfection.
“Recording in Iceland was about shutting ourselves off from our daily lives and our heavy touring schedule to rediscover what Dry the River means to us,” shares frontman Peter Liddle in a documentary the band made on the Icelandic quest for perfect. “We suspected it would be some kind of otherworldly experience, and it was: beautiful and alien, lonely and taxing, but ultimately rewarding.”
Beautiful it is. Liddle’s hollow and haunting voice echoes across 10 tracks all as perfect as the next. Even the loudest, most raucous of moments feels somehow mellow, thanks to Liddle’s tenor. These songs, this album might play well live, but most lend themselves to being listened to in an environment similar to how they were recorded. “It Was Love That Laid Us Low,” for instance, seems best experienced in a dark room, alone… possibly in the fetal position. It reminds us of Almost Famous and the note William finds inside the Who album, left by his sister: “Listen to ‘Tommy’ with a candle burning and you’ll see your entire future.” In this instance, though, “It Was Love” searches back over past transgressions — yours, ours, Liddle’s, everyone’s.
“Gethsemane” is equally drenched in memories of the past. Liddle’s tongue rolls over lines about not letting go, hanging dresses around the house to keep an unnamed and long gone “you” alive. More than any other track, though, “Gethsemane” offers up the sort of cacophony necessary for proper catharsis amongst a crowd. It’s a real, gorgeous mess full of sweet harmonies and clashing guitars. And we want that chance to disappear into a swaying, buzzing crowd while lost in the memories stirred and images created by Liddle’s writing and voice.
Alarms in the Heart is exactly the album you need to ease into fall, to sink into as you slink from summer flings or faulty lovers. Yes, sure, if you want to you can spot Liddle’s Christian upbringing laced through his writing. But this is not a religious album. We are not being preached to. Dry the River may, however, may be leading the church of indie rock… and we will happily join in on the choir, singing their praises.