When I saw both of these bands were releasing music this month, I was ecstatic! Arctic Monkeys and The Front Bottoms are two of my favorite bands, so I’m always happy for new releases from them. More than that, I knew I’d have to review these projects. However, I’ve decided to do it a little bit different than usual. Instead of doing a track-by-track review, I’m going to discuss my overall feelings on the albums as a whole. Now, this doesn’t mean I have less to say. It’s just that I don’t have individual commentary on the songs. So, I decided to do a mini-review of each. Now, let’s get into my thoughts on Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino by Arctic Monkeys and Ann by The Front Bottoms:
Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino by Arctic Monkeys
Their first release since 2013’s pop-infused AM, this album is a return to their original sound. Of course, it’s not merely more of the same—the Arctic Monkeys never do anything without a twist. Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is an album that’s out of this world—literally! The entire album takes place in a hotel and casino located on Tranquility Base (which is on the moon, for those who didn’t know). Though most of the songs can be interpreted in other ways (and a few have visceral political statements), the concept for the album is a journey through an astrological getaway.
Different songs portray different aspects of the hotel. The title track finds us in the lobby with a receptionist named Mark. “American Sports” calls to mind a lounge singer, the calming piano a candle in the dark. “Four out of Five” is a veritable commercial, a braggadocios anthem lording their positive reviews.
Of course, as I said, it’s not all a space vacation spot. “Golden Trunks” is a pointed political statement about the current US “president.” “She Looks Like Fun” is a grungy, grimy growl of a song, celebrating a particularly desirable woman. The entire album is bombastic fun, whether it’s a thundering rock song or a ballad like “The Ultracheese.” Of course, the record is best experienced in one setting; however, it’s not necessary. This album is rife with single potential. Unequivocally, this album is a triumph.
This album is most reminiscent of the late, great David Bowie. The music is big and theatrical, and Alex Turner’s voice soars and croons in a Bowie-like fashion. However, it’s not a copy. As I said before, Arctic Monkeys can’t do anything without adding their own original twist. Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is an homage and its own original idea.
I would go as far as to say that Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is one of Arctic Monkeys’ best albums yet. Rather than taking place on a space adventure, it’s a space vacation. This album was easily worth the nearly five-year wait. I am so glad I’ll be seeing them live this summer. I’m sure they’ll fly me directly to the moon.
Ann by The Front Bottoms
Despite being merely an EP, Ann may very well be The Front Bottoms’ best release yet. It’s on the rock & roll end of the alternative spectrum, a departure for the brothers. What’s more, this EP is easily their most emotionally potent. Brian Sella’s vocals stray somewhat from his usual apathy, becoming an emotive shout at times. This emotion makes these six songs some of their most accessible yet.
And it’s no surprise this EP is rife with emotion and nostalgia— it’s named after their grandmother. The album covers themes of mental illness, dealing with the past, and surviving ex-girlfriends. On top of that, “Somebody Else,” “Pale Beneath the Tan (Squeeze),” and “Lonely” are rerecordings of old demos. “Tie Dye Dragon” stands as the lone song most loyal to their usual sound. Given all this, it’s no wonder this album resonates with me so much.
Even though this EP is a bit of a departure for the band, Ann still retains much of their almost folksy sound. Either way, these are some of their best songs to date. The emotions are raw and relatable, the lyrics the perfect sort of specific. If this is what The Front Bottoms have to offer on an EP, I can’t wait to hear what their next album will sound like.
Overall, these two albums are two of the best to come out of the alternative scene so far this year. As different as they are, they’re both massively appealing. Arctic Monkeys and The Front Bottoms each have their own niche and appeal, but I’m not surprised there’s crossover between fans. If Arctic Monkeys are the kings of alternative, The Front Bottoms are the auspicious lords. If you haven’t listened to either of these two projects yet, I highly recommend that you do. These projects have truly cemented Arctic Monkeys and The Front Bottoms as two of my favorite bands. For any fans of alternative music, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino and Ann are must-listens. Ten out of ten, indeed.