With the release of their third studio album, SOLACE, RÜFÜS DU SOL prove that they have more emotional depth and range than we ever thought possible.
Over the last several years, Australian electronic music trio RÜFÜS DU SOL have become something of a worldwide sensation. With two studio albums already under their belts and a handful of singles out ahead of its release, to say that fans were ready to get their first taste of SOLACE would be a mighty understatement.
With its release on Friday, the world, at last, got a chance to experience the third album created by RÜFÜS DU SOL, comprised of singer Tyrone Lindqvist as well as Jon George and James Hunt. To hear the group tell it, the focus of SOLACE was more on lyrical content than the beat, which can be clearly heard and experienced with just one listen through its nine tracks. That aside, it stands alone as an impressive work of art, filled to the brim with raw, powerful emotion and breathtaking soundscapes.
“The record is more personal and vulnerable than we anticipated. We had some of the most amazing times in the studio, as well as some of the most isolated, lonely times. That contrast naturally bled into what we were writing, which is why solace is our ode to finding peace in a time of distress.” – James Hunt
Stream RÜFÜS DU SOL’s beautiful new SOLACE, and read on for our full take on the album below.
Stream RÜFÜS DU SOL – SOLACE via Spotify:
Stream or purchase Solace via your favorite platform.
It’s clear from the moment that you press play – SOLACE is different than RÜFÜS DU SOL’s other work.
While their first and second albums, Atlas and Bloom, respectively, represent a more dance-forward take on electronic music, SOLACE takes a lot of what initially made RÜFÜS DU SOL popular and doubles down on the emotional, introspective elements. It’s marginally shorter than their first two albums, too, clocking in at 42 minutes and featuring a mere nine tracks. For fans of the trio’s earlier music, it most likely is not exactly what they were expecting.
That aside, SOLACE is uniquely possessed of a number of qualities that are all too often missing from electronic music as a genre. From the very first chords of the first track, it’s clear that this album comes from a deeply emotional, vulnerable place – one of self-reflection, of yearning and desire, and, at times, of swirling, bewildering self-doubt. All of that emotion is impressively rendered in the tracks of the album, each of which take on their own unique characters and emotions while simultaneously feeling a part of the greater journey.
That sweeping, cinematic quality that has come to define RÜFÜS DU SOL as musicians is still there, but it’s steeped in something deeper and more meaningful than you might have expected – filled with joy and radiant, sunny brilliance one moment, and diving down into sorrowful, reflective melancholy the next. It’s a bit of a rollercoaster, but it’s purposeful, and every last track feels like it fits together just the way it was meant to.
From the opening chords of “Treat You Better,” my ears, mind, and heart are filled with a feeling of serenity.
“Treat You Better” is a love song of the best kind – idealistic, bright, and telling of vivid, wonderful memories of the best of times – even if those times aren’t exactly the here and now. The golden chords of the organ, the atmospheric sound effects, and the choir of beautiful voices all lend the feeling of being in church, and even if you don’t believe in that kind of thing, it’s clear that the intent is to convey a feeling of reverence – of deep gratitude and great fortune, of celebration and happiness.
By contrast, “Eyes” takes us toward the dancefloor-ready end of the spectrum.
The track features an insanely cool synth line that is probably one of the most notable riffs of the first half of the album. Playing on that organ theme and capturing some of the sparkle of “Treat You Better,” RÜFÜS DU SOL grab the listener by the hand and lead them out into the endless night, filled will excitement and possibilities.
Perhaps one of my favorite parts about “Eyes” is how the trio takes syncopated rhythms and vocals and uses them to build drama and anticipation throughout the track. In an exclusive piece with Billboard Dance, RÜFÜS DU SOL explained the meaning behind this one, saying, “This one is one of the most immediate songs on the record, it’s about really seeing someone for the first time and knowing they see you.” And, really, doesn’t it feel just like that?
The album’s third track, “New Sky,” is a filmic masterpiece awash with the emotion of deciding to make a change in your life.
The first time I heard “New Sky,” I was immediately transfixed by the lush, vibrant soundscapes, transported by the depth of emotion in the vocals. Starting out tentatively, lead singer Tyrone Lindqvist sings over a stripped-down production, telling of the need to be someplace else and all the anxiety that comes along with it. Slowly but surely, the production elements build, swirling and bending, the slow arpeggios ever so slightly off-key, discordant, while the underlying bassline builds and swells below, pushing us forward.
It’s around the three-minute mark, though, that “New Sky” really takes flight, those gorgeous arpeggios rippling and flowing like the waves in the ocean or the wind in the sky. It’s the musical equivalent of that incredible feeling you get when you strike out into something new, of adrenaline coursing through your body alongside an impossible amount of anticipation, vulnerability, and hope. It’s probably my favorite track on the entire album, and undoubtedly one of the most unique tracks the trio has ever put out.
“Lost in My Mind” is one of those huge, epic tracks that is going to be absolutely incredible played out live.
RÜFÜS DU SOL talked a lot about being inspired by the wild landscapes of California as they were producing SOLACE, and I’m not sure that’s any more apparent than with “Lost in My Mind.” Its huge chords, tribal drum beats, and choruses of wild, visceral voices paint a picture of unbridled, untamable freedom and a feeling of connection to everything that it means to be human. Lindqvist sings, “I’m lost and I like it” – and really, isn’t that where we all want to be?
“No Place” was the first single off the album, and when you listen to it, it’s easy to see why.
Drawing on the vulnerability that has at this point become one of the key themes of the album, “No Place” is not just another love song, but one that effortlessly conveys the feeling of meeting someone who is bound to change your whole world – and having your entire existence set aflame.
True to form, RÜFÜS DU SOL seamlessly fused together elements we’ve heard before to tell this part of the story, from those big, epic horns to the shimmering, sparkling synths. It all comes together to convey that feeling of standing on the precipice of something incredible. It feels timeless – or maybe, it feels like, for just one moment, time stands perfectly still.
After an onslaught of sweeping, epic tunes, we get a moment of repose with “All I’ve Got.”
It’s actually rather welcome, this feeling of being able to relax for a moment with something a bit more introspective. “All I’ve Got” is a track specifically formulated to call to mind the feeling of driving down the highway at midnight, and you can hear it in every element of the composition, from the darkness of the chords to the stripped-down instrumentation to the sparkling of the stars overhead to the long, languorous chords that feel like streetlights streaking by the windows. I haven’t listened to it while driving down the highway yet, but I’m sure when I do, it will feel just like this.
When the trio released “Underwater” earlier this year, it was an instant fan favorite.
Gentle, flowing, and meditative, the anticipation grows quickly with the addition of huge horn chords, urgent voices, and sweeping strings as Lindqvist makes a plaintive cry for help – “Help me out before I die; Save me now before I give up. Help me out before I drown; Cause I just need some space.” It’s no doubt a feeling that many people can relate to, and one that will resonate with the whole audience when they play it live.
The brilliance with which RÜFÜS DU SOL manipulate the dynamics of the track cannot be understated; the push and pull of crescendo and diminuendo create an effect of being helplessly tossed by waves, of being completely defenseless and out of control. It’s one of the biggest tunes on SOLACE, and also, without a doubt, one of the best.
Beginning with rippling, harp-like chords and gently flowing into a meditative ballad, the album’s penultimate track, “Solace,” is another reflection on love.
It’s a different perspective, though, than we typically talk about, and that’s what we do, exactly, with the memories we have of a relationship when love ends. It’s all too easy to move past those feelings and push them into oblivion – like they never existed at all.
“Solace” maintains that shimmery, cinematic quality apparent elsewhere in the album, but with a slowed-down feeling that illustrates the difficulty of the emotions at hand. As the track progresses, the music gains static and almost feels like it’s fading into the background – like it’s flaking and fraying as it’s passing by, maybe for the last time. Surely we’ve all experienced that feeling – that longing for those moments not to disappear forever.
“Another Life” brings us back full circle to that hopeful, optimistic feeling from the beginning of the album.
Although if you listen to the lyrics of “Another Life,” it is undeniably bittersweet, it is also about moving on and about finding hope in difficult places. Upbeat, sunny, and lighthearted, the track leaves us in the right place to move forward, no matter how difficult the times in the past have been.
The track also still draws on many of the same sonic motifs as many of the tunes on the rest of the album, from the shimmery synths to the syncopated rhythms to the horn sounds, this time a bit more muted. It’s not my favorite track on SOLACE, but it’s a nice way to draw it to a close and leaves the listener with a feeling of optimism, which is a necessary palate cleanser after the emotional depths we’ve explored.
Nine tracks later, there is little doubt in my mind: SOLACE is one of the best electronic albums I have had the pleasure of listening to in 2018.
Is it exactly what longtime fans of RÜFÜS DU SOL were expecting when they got their hands on it? Probably not, but that’s not always a bad thing. After their first two albums, I’m sure there will be plenty of conversation in various parts of the internet about how different SOLACE is than the first two, and whether or not that’s something their fanbase wanted.
But, expectations be damned – from the euphoria of “Treat You Better” to the visceral beauty of “Lost in My Mind” to the cinematic brilliance of “New Sky,” SOLACE is, start to finish, a powerful journey through some of the most difficult emotions that humans ever face in their relationships with others and with themselves. It is flawlessly rendered, drawing on a host of motifs that give it a true sense of cohesion. And lyrically, it is extraordinary, gut-wrenching, and undeniably real, representative of the kind of musical poetry that is altogether too uncommon in music today.
Give it a listen, just once. And then listen again, and again – because no amount of listening can possibly prepare you for the journey that SOLACE will take you on every time.
- Treat You Better
- New Sky
- Lost in My Mind
- No Place
- All I’ve Got
- Another Life