Sons of an Illustrious Father

When you listen to Sons of an Illustrious Father, you get a sense that there’s a tightknit community aspect that goes well beyond the music. The trio of Josh Aubin, Lilah Larson, and Ezra Miller have no problem sharing the spotlight with one another, and this ability to open the floor to one another elevates the individual pieces in a way that services the collective. So with Revol, their long-awaited follow-up to One Body, it’s unsurprising that the exactness and appreciation for precision is supported by this process.

Beautifully haunting minimalism sets the tone of “ppm” before Ezra Miller’s voice cuts in. The tempo adjusts itself and pulls in divinely inspired harmonies, and when “the mind is a maze – try to walk straight” is sung, a curtain slowly unveils a display that grows in stature with each key change. Vocals find a firm footing to stand on while a struggle between trusting the inclinations of the head and the heart takes place. This is just the beginning of the attempt to understand the observational battles the band finds themselves engaged in. With big time drum kicks and keys intermittently sprinkled in, “’06” seems somewhere between rejecting responsibility/rationality and avoiding the lot that lays ahead of you. There are many great lyrics to quote, but “this is real, but it’s not what we believe,” and it’s refusal to accept normalcy is the best outcome, might be Josh Aubin at his finest.

“Because” is easily the grittiest, bluesiest output on the album with its opening that takes no prisoners before a huge pullback on the momentum. Lilah Larson’s imagery of “we walk in single file” portrays the mundaneness of a less than romantic situation in a way that is so relatable that you wonder why it hasn’t been used to express such feeling much before. The song honestly, emotionally, and even scientifically explains why it all seems to be coming to an end as the group collectively digs their heels in, refusing to flinch under the barrage of questions before a more lounge-tinted drifter vibe appears on “Tendrils.” “Self-realization” of another inevitable ending – a much more disastrous one as it pertains to human life – shows everything seemingly diving into a tailspin – reflected within the music – yet there’s a belief that things might turn themselves around.

This atmosphere seems to be a bit more crushing on “Opposite of Love,” a track that focuses in on a situation that is beyond unhealthy that rings true for too many. Larson creates a frightening world in which one becomes assimilated to making one’s self secondary. A boiling anger heats itself in her voice, and the music burns with intensity, even the mellow tones are like a stove that’s still hot. Crescendo stands tall over the closing of the track, but so does the admission that while the love is gone, something still lingers within the core. The counter to this fire is the rhythm and tempo adjusting themselves to land smoothly on “Saudade.” Aubin freely admits truth is what you make of it essentially. A crazy love is needed to get out of a rut; but is that really what’s needed? It’s quite possible, but its contemplative disposition mixed with a desire for impulse makes things a bit uncertain.

If you were to break the album into three parts based on the rotation of lead vocals, you may argue the statements behind the closing third are the strongest on Revol. It all starts with the incredibly woozily bombastic “Conquest,” which you can read more about here. This is followed by “Armageddon,” whose opening piano channels The Pogues, Leonard Cohen, and Jim Steinman all in one. Earth is viewed as a kingdom, and yet we decide, quite knowingly so even, to put it and ourselves through a hell. Internal and external battles with how to go on from here take shape. We see the approach of danger, the chaos that ensues. But how we face these situations is up to us. It’s easy to envision Sons of an Illustrious Father not only participating in this clash, but actively leading the charge as well. Timpani notes get quicker before a haunting reverence of silence briefly mutes it all prior to major chords pulling you out of your complacency. As the crest of the band flies above the scene, a cliffhanger ends the track.

It’s a silence that’s broken with a guitar that runs for miles with reverb and effects. Album closer “Post Future” posits the question, “How late will it be before we figure out where it all went wrong?” while also contemplating how to keep moving forward if everything is designed to keep that from happening. At times, it seems like society is so close to getting it right, but we then find ourselves walking that fine line where things could collapse at any moment. As Aubin sings, “I’m living in a world that makes too much sense to me,” heaviness is being carried by all involved, but it’s painted in a box of hope. And the desire to feel and understand something deeper within the human condition gives you faith when you hear “I want to live to do something beautiful.” It’s then that you understand the recurring themes of the album also serve as the extra push you need to escape safety for something beyond what anyone can possibly fathom.

Revol is available from Big Picnic Records now. We can safely say this is going to be one of the best albums of the month, and it will hold a spot throughout 2016 for us as all. You can get it through iTunes now. Joey Smith