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Atlas Genius’s debut album, When It Was Now, pulses with the beat of the 80’s with an attention deficiency, but it’s a good thing. The South Australian band began on a whim in 2011, and has since produced a consistent and timely seven songs to tie together their first full release to follow up their 2012 Through the Glass EP. In the great musical tradition, brothers Keith, Michael, and Steven Jeffery teamed up with friend Darren Sell to great initial reception on Youtube and music blogs, cutting their teeth with electro covers of popular songs (The XX, anyone?). These guys are going to be big, and we’re just waiting in the wings for it to happen.
When It Was Now’s lead single “Trojans”, pulsing with guitar and synth, has been getting more and more airplay by the day since its U.S. debut in 2012, and shows no signs of stopping. This and new single “It Is” represent the Atlas Genius they’re marketing themselves as– a throwback sound with a new twist, akin to the stadium-pulsing beats of The Killers or Passion Pit, but there’s something more to their sound that doesn’t seem to be fully exploited in this debut. Every single song on the album can be danced to, made out to, or listened to on the train with equal ease, and their new wave accessibility is part of what has America more and more captivated with them by the day, but there’s a power in a few of When It Was Now’s tracks that suggest there’s some real innovation lurking beneath the surface of a thick wall of distortion pedals and synthesizers that the band and their label aren’t ready to explore yet.
Standing out from the pack are “Symptoms” and “Electric”, the most musically interesting tracks on Atlas Genius’s first effort. Both dip their toes into a more daring sound that the group is a little too nervous to pursue in the majority of the album, but sticks with a listener. The beginning of “Electric” captivates with an off-key guitar-electro battle, and becomes the best dance floor anthem the band has produced to date. In turn, “Symptoms” offers a refreshing set of lyrics audibile above their atmospheric wall of sound– “Then leaf subsides to leaf,” Jeffreys croons, “So Eden sank to grief/So dawn goes down to day/Nothing gold can stay”.
Noticeably missing, it feels, is a song to break the pace– where it’s a common convention for any given album to have a song that changes the group’s usual tempo or address a different subject matter, When It Was Now sticks to its guns on the beat and on the words, which generally stick to existential musings in a pop time signature. The group has already released four full music videos to continue promoting the album and it appears that “Symptoms” is on deck for the next big release, and Atlas Genius is primed to become the next new wave revival success in the spirit of MGMT. When It Was Now is thoroughly worth a play through at your next party, and keep your eyes peeled– we’re certainly not going to lose sight of Atlas Genius anytime soon.