The creative leap that Priests make from the Bodies and Control and Money and Power EP to their first full-length Nothing Feels Natural is reflected in the titles of both works: Bodies spelled out society's ills with literal (and literate) rants, but this time, Priests use a more poetic, existential approach to express these frustrations. When nothing feels right, change is a natural response, and the band uses the space afforded by a full-fledged album to introduce more sounds and moods to its music. Nothing Feel Natural's first two tracks show just how wide Priests' scope is: On "Appropriate," they attack that most stifling of words with a scathing rant that questions consumerism and identity before falling into shambles and returning, phoenix-like, with the help of saxophonist Luke Stewart's feverish free jazz wailing. Then they follow their most apocalyptic song yet with one of their catchiest: "JJ"'s full-throated guitar-pop disses an ex via their favorite brand of cigarettes. Along with these rapid-fire changes, Priests also refine the insistent, claustrophobic sounds of Bodies and Control and Money and Power without losing any firepower on songs like "Puff," "Pink White House," and the hip-shaking dance-punk of "Suck," where lyrics like "Please don't make me be someone with no sympathy" reaffirm that in Priests' world, bold doesn't mean simplistic. It makes sense that a D.C. punk band created a furious and eclectic response to the state of the world in the late 2010s -- and considering that the album was released the week President Donald Trump took office, its timing was almost too perfect. While Nothing Feels Natural speaks for an underground that won't be silenced, it also speaks to the human condition, whether on "Nicki"'s vampiric post-punk or the jittery no wave of "No Big Bang," which spans mania and self-doubt in drummer Daniele Daniele's riveting monologue. Challenging times can result in beauty as well as anger, and Priests express a prettier -- but just as vital -- side on inward-looking songs such as "Leila 20" and the gorgeously haunting title track, which finds Katie Alice Greer and the rest of the band hitting new heights of eloquence. Here and on the rest of Nothing Feels Natural, the hunger, vitality, and intelligence coursing through these songs feel timeless as well as timely.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares