The Way Things Fall

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After spending years away from music to renovate buildings and make films and visual artwork, Adult.'s Adam Miller and Nicola Kuperus couldn't have picked a better time to return. During the years between 2007's Why Bother? and 2013's The Way Things Fall, the kind of dark, spiky, synth-driven sound they'd been honing since the early 2000s -- back when it was called electroclash -- finally rose to prominence, making them seem less like outliers and more like trailblazers. That distinction seems even more fitting considering that Adult. have moved on from the wild-eyed noise-punk of their previous album on The Way Things Fall, which wears its accessibility as boldly as the duo took no prisoners before. Just how poppy these songs are is sometimes surprising, but in a good way; just as the dark indie-electro bands that arose in their absence built on Adult.'s foundations, it feels like Miller and Kuperus are tipping their hats to the likes of the Felte and Wierd rosters in the way they emphasize melody. The Way Things Fall is even structured like a pop album, with its most irresistible songs at the top: the prickly opener, "Heartbreak," feels like a hookier version of Adult.'s classic sound, with Kuperus wringing several different meanings out of the titular chorus; "Idle (Second Thoughts)" is so lush and pretty that it sounds even more subversive; and "Tonight, We Fall" is the closest thing the band has written to an anthem, albeit one with love and anguish holding hands tight in lyrics like "It sticks to you, it sticks to me/Forever." Adult. also nod to their more purely electro past throughout the album, particularly on tracks like "New Frustration," which echoes their cover of A Number of Names' classic "Shari Vari" in its hard-hitting beats and sinuous synths, but the most striking thing about The Way Things Fall is Kuperus' wide-ranging vocals. She's always been a skilled interpreter, mixing humor, dread, and anger into seemingly endless permutations, but here she uses that cynical, questioning persona to explore more emotional terrain, which she does especially well on "Love Lies," "At the End of It All," and the pitch-black dirge "A Day Like Forever." The inevitability implied in The Way Things Fall's title is delivered in its songs: far from sounding like a concession to anyone or anything, its directness makes this one of Adult.'s most confident and satisfying albums.

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