What do you think of when you hear the word “gentle”? The tenderness of a lover? The sensation of a cool breeze? The ballad of small ocean ripples cascading upon the side of a drifting schooner? Gentleness is a kind, nurturing word, and all too seldom these days do we really stop and absorb that sort of thing.
Music has a way of reminding people that the senses are connected — we can set ourselves a course into love with She & Him, we can sweat to Hot Chip, we can sail on an Eric Clapton blues arrangement, and these gentle tufts of sound, constructed delicately, can ignite a vast spectrum of emotions inside us.
The 1900s know this, and they have tightly gift-wrapped that sentiment in tune with the season at hand; this act stands in the vein of a low-key New Pornographers, flexing tones that could easily fit either an iPod commercial (“Lay A Ghost”) or a default indie pop playlist (“Amulet”).
Return Of The Century brings depth to “gentle”, sobriety to “somber”, and, occasionally, flashes hints of a muted Happy Hollows. Return Of The Century generally plateaus at the audio meat of its core, but the intention holds steady; there is a vibe of whimsy, dusted by a drum brush, glittering with bold instants that try to cover a lack of expansion. Return is heavy on tight and wistful vocal harmony, hushed drums, and a very well-paced feeling of minds being carried away by pixies. Losing focus in a daydream of feverish wanderlust (“Tucson”) or riding the rhythm of a barhopping cross-country trek (“Bmore”), you get the impression that The 1900s is more than indie pop, but not so cerebral that it gets lost in translation.
Downsides are present as restrained flirtations with disco (“Babies”) and dull repeats (“Jean Demon” and “Sanzimat”, aside from finishing keyboard flourishes, feel weak and derivative of Return‘s other output) that gladly only come to call toward the finale. Random aesthetics, like the static in “Jean Demon” and the introductory Radiohead chug on “Amulet” , serve no purpose that hinders or hurts Return. If you strip away the subtle padding and get down to brass tacks, The 1900s have crafted a very pretty album. Much like the ribbon that makes up its cover art, Return Of The Century has the flare of a color-guard dancer, but the gentle and somber accents have drowned the versatility of this record, reducing it more to folksy-pop elevator music in places.
Lyrically there is nothing glaring, save maybe the chorus of “Tucson”, but that takes away from The 1900s as little as lack of Icelandic speech comprehension could hurt an American Jonsi fan. Return Of The Century, in all of its glorious jingles and strings and delicacy, rings true as a positive experience, and if you like any of the acts listed in this article, I recommend giving this album a listen. Who knows? Emotions run deep and different in everyone; maybe the album will impact you harder than it did me.