Modern Studies - Welcome Strangers

by Ljubinko Zivkovic Rating:10 Release Date:2018-05-18
Modern Studies - Welcome Strangers
Modern Studies - Welcome Strangers

Based on the evidence of their second album, Welcome Strangers I’d say Modern Studies is an aptly named band. Advancing the genre of modern pop music is a tricky thing to do. You have to present new ideas, or turn already presented ones into a meta-musical language and often, that is a much harder thing to do than just come up with a set of purely experimental music. You often run the risk of either not being melodic or listenable, then it is in no way pop, or just falling short in either bringing something new or not really integrating the musical ideas that inspired you and turning in a disparate set of somebody else’s ideas.

On Welcome Strangers Modern Studies do come up with a modern study of how to be an innovative pop band. Throughout the album, they are able to combine all the intricacies of dual vocal interplay, integrating an orchestra and analog electronics and ‘standard’ rock instrumentation into your sound without really citing the possible sources of your ideas, but simply hinting at them. If you really needed a definition what the modern version of the Sixties invention of chamber pop sounds like, here it is.

Welcome Strangers is truly an invitation, because almost everybody else is here besides the band themselves and a chamber orchestra which they hired and recorded in a village hall - sisters, wives, toddlers, freeform saxophonists and The Pumpkinseeds, an ensemble featuring violins, violas, cellos, trombones and vocals, and the sound Modern Studies produce really make you welcome.

While all the tracks on the album have their own distinctive identity, the album itself plays like an even more distinctive mood piece, something Van Dyke Parks, one of the band’s faves would be able to produce. They are able to achieve this through giving equal space to all the musical elements they used - the vocals, the band itself, the orchestra and all the extra elements and guests that weave through the arrangements.

It is really hard to come up with a track that you can pinpoint as favourites, but for the sake of the argument, I’d pick “Mud and Fire”, “Young Sun” and the closer “Phosphene Dream”. Simply put, Welcome Strangers truly makes you welcome. A quiet masterpiece.

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