The Other opens with its solemn and sparse title track, and Kyle Thomas sounds like he’s on the brink of descending into a spiral of despair. His words are a little clumsy, like a tipsy, nervous storyteller trying to parse out a tale on the spot. But it’s this raw and purposeful poetry, plus the skeletal beauty of the instrumentation, that makes “The Other” a masterpiece.
“So I find an ancient payphone / To tell my mother I love her / But she ain’t home / She must have gone out looking for the other”
“The Other” is extremely personal but vague enough to be universal. What is “the other”? A real, substantive human connection? Freedom from the shackles of civilization? A ham sandwich? It’s never entirely clear, but I believe it’s about searching for and finding a singular purpose, a reason to carry on against all odds. Cliché, perhaps, but also very human.
Thomas is unusually contemplative for most of The Other, and as a result we get the stunner “Thru The Cracks,” a bittersweet folk-rock elegy for a close friend that’s both mournful and inspiring. Thomas reflects on the lost potential of a beautiful soul (“You know you had such a beautiful brain / But no one understood you”), yet accepts this person might be better off in their “sun palace in the sky … A perfect paradise.”
The melancholy is broken up by psychadelic-rock bangers like “Raindrop Blue,” which sports a succulent symphony of saxophone, synth explosions, and sensual bass. Thomas continues assembling this intoxicating instrumentation on tracks like “Infinite Mile” and “Psycho Star,” which manage to work only because the songs at the core are so damn good.
I wish that “Circuits In The Sand” — a heavy-handed lecture on smartphone addiction with the deftness of a David Brooks op-ed — didn’t appear on this album. However, it’s the lone misfire. For most of the The Other, Thomas uses his expertise in bold garage- and psychadelic-rock to build an intimate fortress of contemplation and musical solace. Feel free to use it for your summer soundtracks, but don’t be surprised if you you and your buddies end up doing some soul-searching.
The Other is out now via Sub Pop Records.