School of Seven Bells – SVIIB
School of Seven Bell’s fourth and final album is a beautiful tribute to the band and its founding member Benjamin Curtis, who died three years ago after battling a rare form of lymphoma, leaving co-member Alejandra Deheza to finish the album they’d started with another producer. But SVIIB isn’t an overly sad affair, though knowledge of the story behind it certainly cast the lyrics of sadness and longing in a different light — most of them were written before Curtis’ diagnosis, in the wake up of the breakup of Curtis and bandmate Alejandra Deheza’s romantic relationship and their forging forward as friends and bandmates. SVIIB looks back fondly on their time together. The band’s combination of dream-pop and electro-pop has never been more lucidly realized than on songs like “Ablaze,” which opens the album on a rush of teenage emotion and big synth-laden beats, like Erasure’s new-wave optimism reimagined for a generation weaned on M83 and Chvrches. “There was a you before me, there was a me before you,” Dehenza sings with hip-hop inflected delivery on “On My Heart.” “A Thousand Times More’s” New Order-style heartfelt synth-pop and the freestyle-flavored “Signals” call to mind happier times for the band, when they were a trio on albums like Disconnect From Desire. On the devastating “Confusion,” Deheza sings wearily over a billowing cloud of synths and organs, exhaling the line, “I understand nothing of these changes,” with the sense of sitting at rock bottom and staring upward. That impression of a light in the tunnel that SVIIB leaves you with makes the album feel not like a sad ending, but a celebration of their work.