The Renderers

In the Sodium Light

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The Renderers' eighth album finds the New Zealand indie rock veterans (led by married couple Maryrose and Brian Crook) at their most brooding and abstract, refraining from the calm yet propulsive rhythms of their previous albums and exploring murkier waters. The album comes after a series of earthquakes ravaged the duo's hometown of Christchurch, causing them to relocate to California around the time of the release of 2011's A Rocket into Nothing. As such, this album feels even more broken-down and mournful than usual for the group; even if it's not as overtly bluesy or country-influenced as their earlier work, the downtrodden feeling still permeates their songs. "Seaworthy" contains one of the album's most up-front rhythms, with accordion and salty strings mixed in with the swarming guitars, and lyrics that continue the nautical theme present in much of the group's work (most notably 1998 career highlight A Dream of the Sea). "Mr Pulse" gets bleaker, with slowly trudging drums and guitars, bits of vibraphone and piano, insectoid electronic buzzes, and even more sorrowful strings. Brian Crook takes over the microphone on the dirgelike "Strange Love" as well as the slowly seething "Black Saturn." As soon as the album seems like it's going to collapse under the weight of hopelessness, it ends on a surprisingly uplifting note with "You Raise Me," where Maryrose reaches up through the melancholy and regret, addressing someone for saving her and exclaiming "Can't you feel it?" The song is a much-needed respite from the doom and gloom that accumulate throughout the album's preceding songs, and leaves the listener coming away with a hopeful feeling. The Renderers have never been the band to turn to for instant gratification, so it seems redundant to state that this isn't the most immediately satisfying album you're likely to hear, but it's as ultimately rewarding as most of the band's catalog.

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