Coming out of hiding after eleven years, Unwed Sailor released their newest offering back in May. Aptly named Heavy Age, I’m assuming given world events, the album is eleven tracks of entrancing post-rock mastery. Opening with an incredibly strong track “Indian Paintbrush” and mesmerizing the listener from there on out till the last note of “When You Want Me There”, Heavy Age may easily be Unwed Sailor’s most incredible piece of work to date. That eleven year gestation period did something magical and here we are with what might be one of the best albums of the year. Jonathan Ford is the Robert Smith of Unwed Sailor and he should be incredibly proud of this one!
“Indian Paintbrush” begins the album with a melancholy thrust, perhaps setting up a mood for what is to come. I can’t get away from the fact that this album is happening now, in this time, and within the context of our current political climate. The title of the track as an opener is no accident. The music, with its tambourine and slightly wah infused guitar drives the listener on a journey of reality rather than of escape. Perhaps the skies of the plains are somewhere embedded in here, but the Native American word, the very first word on the albums track list, flows out of some sort of magical awareness rather than dreaming. I have a theory about albums. Artists almost always put the best track at the second position on the album and this is true of Heavy Age. “Moon Coin” is a guitar wonder, with melodies dancing and swirling from light moments into fuzzed edged aggression. Oh, and let’s not forget the drumming here because holy shit, they are perfection.
“ACAXAO” gives the listener a perfectly timed break from the aggression with signs of hope and soaring guitars of a picked melody that is an earworm. Quiet at times, but never unapologetic with the drum and bass work, “ACAXAO” is another quite special track and perfectly placed within the track order. “Heavy Age”, the title track, embodies what I was talking about before with the sense of urgency, damper, and downright deep, swirling anxiety of the times. Slow and pensive at the beginning, there is a dragging and pulling at the listener that creates moments of lowness. Guitars do brighten among the deeper, more urgent moments fighting for brightness and room for hope. “Jealous Heart” lightens the load a bit, with brighter guitars and a less heavy hand on the percussion but the melancholy drips from the seams in the chords. Towards the middle of the track, the drums only remain and then another movement begins with massive guitars.
“Disintegrate” kicks off the back half of the album and this shit’s powerful. The melodies drive, the utilization of dynamics is perfection, and the emotive freight like that of a mountain. “Nova” drifts away into the sky with sparkling guitars and light, hypnotic tones. It is the air let into the difficult place and the solace, the break, from the darkness. “Ovid” calls back to early Sailor, the track really screams nostalgia for fans of the band. It seamlessly explodes out of “Nova” and transforms the ease into a more driving, mid-tempo piece. “Thunderbird” begins with percussion and then moves into floating, fuzz-coated guitar melodies. The quieter, more clear toned guitar parts are amazingly placed and give the piece a memorable character.
“Indian Ocean” is initiated by a bass line and then beautiful keys float amid the percussion and lightly picked guitar melodies. It’s a gorgeous penultimate track and really brings the listener to a place that preps them for the finale. Dreamy and hopeful, “Indian Ocean” perhaps asks the listener to not be bogged down in the heavy age but rather to help all of us, as one, move on. “When You Want Me There” closes the album with a 13:27 minute track. It begins with guitar feedback and then moves into heavy tom percussion. Booming, like a sonic anthem, “When You Want Me There” takes the listener right back into heavy territory but with a more forward-looking degree of optimism. Brighter guitar lines lace the heavily pounding drums as the bass work acts as a scaffolding for what’s to come. This track is an outro that is magnificent, energetic, and encapsulates the albums core. What a fantastic way to end an incredible comeback album. However, within this 13:27 minutes track lies a moment of silence then a very interesting and beautiful experimental bass-oriented piece that sounds like it uses found sounds or field recordings alongside other noises. Then ambient music rises as voices fill the speakers. The chorus closes the album, somber and foreboding, perhaps warning of what might come if things don’t change.
Unwed Sailor’s return is, needless to say, triumphant. Among a sea of post-rock bands that continue to cover the same territory or simply sound the same, Unwed Sailor has demonstrated their power once again. There is an intensity, an energy, a weight here giving Heavy Age a huge place among its peers. Jonathan Ford have risen to the task once again!