Their stadium-indie sound is more variegated on this follow-up, on which Mikel Jollett reflects on death and change. "We grow old all at once, and it comes like a punch in the gut," he notes on the galloping, U2-style title track, while the simple "The Graveyard Near The House" is a touching love song. In between are burly rockabilly depictions of Jollett's troubled family, stadium anthems of chugging sincerity, and less appealingly, a song about the bombing of that Afghan wedding party featuring some ghastly prog-rock keyboards. Overall, it treads an uncertain line between bombast and sensitivity.
On his second release as A Hawk and a Hacksaw, Neutral Milk Hotel's Jeremy Barnes continues to play the antique card, now focusing on the "ompah" accordion sound of an 18th century European village, as opposed to the Reconstruction-era American village of his previous effort. Of course, just because Barnes evokes a certain time and place doesn't mean his hectic musical ear stays in that one place, hence the squeezebox that morphs into a battery of bagpipes on the highly cinematic opener, "Laughter in the Dark." There's also room for a prideful horn that echoes the work of Ennio Morricone and the constant pitter-patter of castanets and marching snares that ensure that the solemn moments like "For Slavoj" and "Europa" don't stay that way for too long.
Over the span of almost three decades, Scottish indie rock stalwarts Travis have persevered, both holding faithful to the sound that they helped break into the U.K. mainstream in the '90s and rocking long enough to watch their sonic progeny spread their wings and fly off in various artistic directions (see: Coldplay, Keane, Snow Patrol). And through it all, Travis remained reliable, seldom veering too far from the center. On their eighth album, Everything at Once – a long-form commentary on modern life in the 21st century – they revive familiar sounds and also push themselves into more cheerful and unencumbered directions.