Album Review: everything is alive // Slowdive


Slowdive have once more succeeded at navigating their sound, achieving the daunting feat of treading between structure and experimentation with their fifth studio album, everything is alive.

Guitarist and vocalist Rachel Goswell’s interview with Billboard magazine states that the album “might have come out a few years earlier were it not for the pandemic, including the deaths of Goswell’s mother and drummer Simon Scott’s father during that period”. These personal losses seem to have carved an unexpected path for the album to take, yet the band have set their sights towards that direction fearlessly, making its release more impactful.

The album kicks off with ‘shanty’, a mesmerising track that immediately entrances listeners in a world of musical abstraction. Dynamic arpeggiator blips and sustained synthesiser melodies blend seamlessly, creating a captivating sonic wall of sound. The lyrics, as is often the case with Slowdive’s music, are washed out and indistinguishable. This is a recurring motif that has endeared the band to both new and seasoned shoegaze fans. While Slowdive may have developed a recognisable formula for their music, what keeps it sounding innovative is their unparalleled ability to locate a space for which these motifs can recur and sound fresh. Their mastery of musical reinvention is most evident in ‘chained to a cloud’, a track that combines elements of their signature dreamy sound with a more experimental and electronic edge.

On the other hand, ‘andalucia plays’ is reminiscent of previous tracks such as ‘Celia’s Dream’ and ‘Altogether’, mainly due to their slow, hazy ambience. Neil Halstead’s singing style takes on a clarity that is rarely seen, departing from the more obscured vocals that can be found in the rest of the songs on the album. This delivery is also heard in his work with Mojave 3, particularly in the album Excuses for Travellers. The blending of crystalline vocals with the band’s hazy instrumentation creates a juxtaposition that is a hallmark of their more recent material, and it proves to be an excellent artistic choice.

The appeal of albums such as Souvlaki and Just for a Day might be the nostalgia for the past, but the band proved to be adaptable with the changing of music. Pygmalion, on the other hand, was a departure from the sonic sound which further came to fruition with their self-titled album, released in 2017, exhibiting the same qualities. Everything is alive proves that the aforementioned album wasn’t a mere stroke of luck. They have mastered the craft of reinvention, as each album seems to shed light on a dimension of the band that has always been beneath the surface, yet unexplored. ‘Kisses’, for example, feels like a more realised version of ‘Sugar for the Pill’, heavier on production and repetition, yet maintaining the same layering of vocals and reverbed guitars that coalesce to form something new and distinct.

Slowdive’s ability to seep into the recesses of nostalgia and memory, combined with their unique approach to blending lyrics with instrumentation, speaks to the timeless and transcendent quality of their work. Their journey through the realms of sound continues to inspire, and we’re grateful that they’re taking us with them.

Words by Marinel Dizon

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