The success of Atlas Genius’ debut When It Was Now was almost unbelievable, considering their origins in Adelaide, Australia. With their first single Trojans leading to a record deal with Warner Bros. Records and their debut album reaching number 34 on the US Billboard 200 charts, their career had already surpassed expectations in the best way possible. It wasn’t hard to see why, either: When It Was Now was a solid album to start with, even if it felt a little rough around the edges. Debut albums are usually a learning experience though, and it definitely seems like brothers Keith and Michael Jeffery learnt some valuable ones before recording Inanimate Objects.
Even just listening to the lead single Molecules, the improvement is instantly obvious. The production feels stronger, their lyrics have gotten better, and it all sounds better from the riffs to the synths. The sound of the album is very similar to When It Was Now in terms of genre, though with a bit more variation than the synth-laden pop rock of that album. Songs move between a heavier electronic sound on Refugees and Molecules and a more general indie rock sound on The Stone Mill and Friendly Apes; they all fall somewhere on the scale between these two genres, but never really focus entirely on one side. It’s a mixture of elements that feels natural and shows a definite progression from their debut.
Rather than falling into a slump near the end of the album, as many tend to do, Inanimate Objects’ best songs are also its last few. Friends With Enemies showcases the Jeffery brothers’ ability to carry a ballad, slowing the album down and simplifying its arrangement in a way that truly makes it enjoyable, especially as it falls to near a capella levels at the halfway mark. The City We Grow shows all of their skills at their strongest, with the best lyrics and riffs of their career; the explosive chorus is the icing on the cake. Closing track Levitate ends the album on a simpler note, featuring nothing but acoustic guitar, light percussion and airy synths to set the mood; Keith’s vocals are also at their best here, with minimal accompaniment to wrestle with allowing his voice to shine through.
Inanimate Objects is a huge step in the right direction for the Jeffery brothers. Every part of the album feels like a marked improvement over When It Was Now, and while a few songs may seem weaker than the rest, there isn’t a single one that stands out as terrible or unenjoyable. It truly feels like they’re starting to come into their own as a band. This is definitely an album that fans of synth pop or indie rock will want to check out.