Handclaps may be simple, but they can communicate a great deal. They are seldom less than happy; they can keep a beat or reward an artist at the end of a concert. On “Yes, I’m Breathing,” the opening handclaps are a sign of health and confidence. The least expensive part of the album, they return later to form a catchy chorus. Solkyri seems to be in a good mood, and since they are in a good mood, we are in a good mood. This being said, it’s ironic that the album is titled Sad Boys Club, unless a group of sad boys cancels out the sadness, like negatives multiplied to form a positive.
We love the cover, although we must admit those sheep look a bit dangerous, reminding us of the New Zealand b-movie Black Sheep, with which these Australians are likely familiar. (“The sheep are revolting!”) In like manner, Solkyri seems benevolent, as handclaps meet a glockenspiel and string section. But they also rock, bringing the riffs as early as the opening “Team Solar.” According to Ninjawords, “solkryi” means “similar to silk,” and while these songs are comprised of smooth edges, their centers are often igneous rather than sedimentary. Their current tour with Tangled Thoughts of Leaving (who also just released a new album), cements the impression.
We were greatly enamored with the band’s 2013 album, Are You My Brother?, in large part due to the variety it displayed. The new album trades some of this variety for pure sound, as the band has settled into a more melodic, straightforward vibe. The brass, occasional vocals and experimental forays have given way to pure post-rock, perhaps best exemplified by the pounding piano and surging guitars of “I Felt Safe, I Felt At Home,” one of only two long tracks on the album. On this track, the guitars grow so thick that they suggest drone, distracting us from the fact that the drums don’t appear until halfway in, echoing their use on the opening track of Are You My Brother?
On that album, the strings played a supporting role. In the absence of the brass, they step up in a big way. Their entrance may come as a surprise to those who are playing the album for the first time, as they are held back until the eighth track and appear on three of the last four, flipping the script on the prior set. When Andrea Young’s cello weeps on “Be Good, I Love You”, the listener may begin to feel that these are sad boys, after all. The funereal piano of “Farewell Bluebird” is joined by twin violins, and now rivers of tears are dissolving into piles of salt. The opening minute of “Rosalia” continues the emotional spiral, but as the piece develops, the heft of massed guitars evokes Anoice. It’s as if Solkyri had descended into the underworld and returned victorious. Now we’re all clapping. (Richard Allen)