The 10th album from Angus Andrew’s shape-shifting project finds him continuing to throw electronic music against post-punk and see what happens. Each Liars album has borne different results, from dancepunk to electronic pulses to stark minimalism, and The Apple Drop is tempered by more thoughtful songwriting, equal parts moodier and darker. In the vocals of the second song “Slow and Turn Inward,” Andrew showcases a closer adherence to conventional songwriting than previously expected. His melodies range in shades of melancholy and unhinged tension. Nothing about this album is heavy or depressing, yet there are moments of sonic beauty on songs like “Big Appetite”; it flows more than grooves and mesmerizes with the shimmer from the shadows.
The songs on The Apple Drop hit with a narcotic pulse and a sardonic scowl, but are textured and melodic. Five songs in, and I was convinced this is the best album Liars have released in years. There are moments that feel cut from a similar cloth as post-Daydream Nation Sonic Youth. There is plenty of eerie atmosphere coloring the sounds they’ve woven into these songs, more accessible than Liars’ most experimental albums, but far from being obviously commercial. It’s not like there exists a mainstream form of radio where these songs would necessarily fit in.
Production-wise this album hits a sweet spot, raw enough to get the point across, yet mixed in a manner that balances all of the lush sounds being gathered together. A buzz of analog synths dominates “Leisure War,” the song with the most abrasive edge on the album, with an interesting drum mix to keep it grounded. In some ways “King of Crooks’ feels like a continuation of the mood established on the previous song, just smoothed out with a dreamier vibe. Andrew reaches for the heavens with the chilling “Star Search.” His baritone proves flexible in its moan, with a croon leans more towards a ritualistic sing-song chant at times. His falsetto is more like a voice cracking in a creepy manner. And “My Pulse to Ponder” is the first song to have a more tangible punk streak in its veins, nodding to the raw power of The Stooges.
Liars’ hypnotic flavor of weird comes together with a glaze of psychedelia on “Acid Crop,” and “New Planets New Undoings” is more of an experimental ambient outro. But regardless of these few, more peculiar diversions, Angus Andrew is at the top of his game as a songwriter on The Apple Drop—a rewarding listen and proof of new ground yet to be uncovered after two already fruitful decades.