For the uninitiated, Liars can be a daunting band to get into. Formed in 2000 by sole constant member Angus Andrew, the band was initially considered part of the indie-rock boom that came out of New York City in the early 2000s. The only problem was that Liars didn’t have the catchy appeal of The Strokes and Interpol or the art-rock pull of Yeah Yeah Yeahs or TV on the Radio. Liars’ sound was experimental but disconcertingly so, existing in a darker, less fun part of town than the hip and cool bands around them.
Upon first listen, the group sound like a traditional rock band that got filtered through a funhouse mirror and had a Chelsea grin permanently carved into them. There’s something perversely comic aspect to Liars, like they’re eternally taking the piss out of everything and everything, but in a brutal and nightmarish way.
Whether it’s the DFA-adjacent dance-punk of their debut, They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top or the bizarre electronic thump of their previous effort, Titles with the Word Fountain, Andrews seems to live by a philosophy of destruction. Nothing is sacred, everything dies, and the past must be forgotten, ideally as quickly as possible.
The Apple Drop, the band’s tenth album, is no exception. Through eleven tracks of orchestral darkness, Andrews drudges up some of the darkest and most troubling thoughts to ever find their way onto a Liars album. Death, confusion, and regret are common themes, with little time spent accenting or dressing up the more disturbing elements. They’re delivered with Andrews’ signature baritone drawl, with the singer pointedly refusing to add any additional shred of emotion to the dirges.
Still, The Apple Drop doesn’t feel like a funeral march. The album seems to float around in its own world rather than drag itself through the mud, always bubbling below the surface but never fully submerging the listener in the void. The record is the first to feature new permanent members Cameron Deyell and Laurence Pike, as the band’s previous two albums were solely Andrews and a computer working to produce glitchy versions of the band’s haunting sound.
If anything, their contributions add new shades of darkness to the muted colour palette that Andrews prefers to work with. Elements of jazz and classical composition fill out the arrangements that were stark and confrontational in past works, adding to the weightlessness of the album’s flow.
In that way, The Apple Drop no longer sounds like a crazy person stuck in his own mind, which is how I would describe the Liars discography up to this point. The sounds here are expansive and ambitious, like a new world of possibilities have opened up for Andrews to explore. But I left the experience feeling the exact same way that I’ve felt after listening to any other Liars album: cold, detached, and in desperate need of a hug and some human connection.
I don’t want to listen to the Liars album that finds Andrews in a happy and content place because that wouldn’t be a Liars album. I’m sure that Andrews has no intention of ever making that kind of music. The Apple Drop is yet another brick in the monolithic and oppressively monochromatic slab that is Liars, for better or for worse.
The Apple Drop will be released on August 6.