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The Arcs - Electrophonic Chronic (Album Review)

Thursday, 02 February 2023 Written by Graeme Marsh

Photo: Alysse Gafkjen

‘Electrophonic Chronic’ is the long awaited follow up to the Arcs’ 2015 debut ‘Yours, Dreamily’ but, tragically, it comes after the death of band member Richard Swift in 2018. Most of the groundwork was completed before Swift passed, meaning the core of the album was in place some six or seven years ago, and with something like 100 tracks in the vaults frontman Dan Auerbach resolved to release something as “a way for us to say goodbye to him”.

Much like their first LP, ‘Electrophonic Chronic’ darts between quirky electronica and guitar-based blues, along with some deeply satisfying psychedelia-tinged soul. Short interludes pop-up intermittently, derailing the momentum, but that is a minor gripe on an otherwise fine collection of songs.

Lead single Keep On Dreamin’ opens the album, with Auerbach’s falsetto situated alongside fuzzy guitars and unconventional keys. Sunshine, another single, is similarly fragmented and surpassed by delight hidden elsewhere.

The funky, laid back Eyez takes us in a more intriguing direction, as does River’s soulful simmering. Glistening synths and buzzy guitars adorn heartfelt ode Heaven is a Place—it’s a beautiful song that sounds as though Sylvian and Sakamoto’s Forbidden Colours has been given a revival in an Arcs cloak.

The second half of the album could be the best you hear this year. “I’m not sad you’re gone, I ain’t mad some fool’s taken you on,” is the bluesy moving on message revealed by Love Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, while A Man Will Do Wrong, Behind the Eyes and Only One For Me are bathed in glorious, old-school soul. They’re so good, in fact, that they might leave you wondering if you’ve stumbled upon some lost Motown classics. 

‘Electrophonic Chronic’ marks a huge step forward for the Arcs, and it is a fitting send off for Swift. Boasting more highlights than any recent Black Keys album, the batting average is so high that we might hope the vaults could yet yield more magic.


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