X Ambassadors

The Beautiful Liar

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The Beautiful Liar Review

by Matt Collar

With 2021's The Beautiful Liar, New York's X Ambassadors offer a wry concept album rife with emotive pop hooks that also makes room for thoughtful, often theatrical ruminations on war, and the troubling way political and economic power brokers command our daily lives with money, fearmongering, and untruths. It's a bold production, framed by an audio-book conceit where a narrator is reading you the -- completely made-up — novel "The Beautiful Liar" by author Irving P. Neville. There's even a mid-album sponsor break that reinforces many of the underlying themes of the album. While none of the songs tie directly into the audio-book, the thematic ideas all work in tandem, reinforcing the growing darkness and unease that permeates ever more as the album progresses. Also adding to the surreality of the production are a handful of giddy novelty cuts, including a 56-second "Conversations with my Friends" that sounds something like Hunter S. Thompson reading an anti-war poem with Bad Brains. There's also the bemusing protest song-meets-1930s Broadway number "Theater of War" in which singer Sam Harris does his best Jimmy Durante impression. Conceptual conceits aside, there are some great songs here, and tracks like "My Own Monster," "Love Is Death," and "Reincarnation" find X Ambassadors further expanding their infectious blend of gothy R&B, electronica, and hip-hop-influenced stadium rock. That many of these songs also find them exploring some of the bigger, more troubling issues in society, lends the album a weight that nicely counterbalances the Disney theme park insanity of the audio-book elements. The Beautiful Liar is a quirky, oddly intriguing experience, whose conceptual elements interrupt the corporate pop flow of the album, and one imagines X Ambassadors wouldn't have it any other way.

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