Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.
In this Love Letter To A Record series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.
Sarah Bonnet, A Swift Farewell – Stand Atlantic, Pink Elephant (2020)
It must not have been easy for Stand Atlantic to deal with the pressure of writing a sophomore album when their debut Skinny Dipping got a response as good as it did. It got so much support from fans and from the music industry all over the world, got them international tours and spots on huge festival lineups like Reading and Leeds, UNIFY, Sad Summer Fest, etc…. Honestly, I was wondering if they would be able to outdo Skinny Dipping as, usually, when a band releases one of my favourite records, I like the next one too, but not as much.
Well, I was wrong, because Pink Elephant surpassed all of my expectations.
Everything started when they released ‘Hate Me (Sometimes)’, almost a year before Pink Elephant (which, funnily enough is now the last song on the album). Only Stand Atlantic would start a song by yelling the word “spaghetti”. Anyway, after that, the intro immediately hits you. It’s everything a good intro can be: a catchy guitar lead, bouncy drums and many layers of bass and guitars that add to the excitement and it’s just long enough to get you ready for the first verse. The rest of the song is just as exciting and intentional. The tempo is perfect to make you want to jump up and down. The vocals (both words and melodies) stay stuck in your head from the first listen. ‘Hate Me (Sometimes)’ was merely the first taste of Stand Atlantic’s ability to sound fresh but loyal to their roots at the same time. One foot into their new sound, one foot into the sound the fans had started loving them for. This balance foreshadowed the whole Pink Elephant album.
From the first note of the record, the tone is announced. The opening song, ‘Like That’, starts with a synth and some electronic-sounding drums. You know straight away that the album will have more production and synths than Skinny Dipping. However, the song goes back to a familiar pop punk territory when, in the first verse, the drums and the palm-muted guitar are introduced. The rest of the song is a perfect mix of both those vibes. Most of the tracks on the record are like this: exciting layers of production (for example, all of the pitched vocals on ‘Wavelength’, the bold synth chords on ‘Blurry’ or the vocoder layer at the beginning of ‘DWYW’) on top of a familiar pop-punk foundation.
In my opinion, Pink Elephant got such a good response from listeners because the band worked hard to not alienate their fans. Sometimes bands go too far and completely change their sound in a year or less. And it probably isn’t true for everyone but most of the time this situation happens because the band decides to completely follow a trend or to turn their music into a music ‘genre’ that they like at the moment. However, if the change is too sudden, their fans are not on the same wavelength (get it?) and some of them end up disappointed in the band’s music (which is fair and okay as long as they don’t abuse the band about it on Twitter).
But Stand Atlantic didn’t do that. Yes, they were influenced by new music and different genres while writing the album, however they decided to not lose themselves completely to a passing trend or taste. In an interview, Bonnie said “We just want people to know that we’re going to do what we want, but still stay true to ourselves and play music that we want to play, and music that’s real and about something”.
This is probably why I have never heard anyone saying they didn’t like the new Stand Atlantic songs because Stand Atlantic had changed too much. The band never seems to lose fans, they only get new ones, they defy expectations while keeping their roots. With Pink Elephant, they also mastered the art of taking the best out of different music styles and put them together, resulting in a mix of catchy and memorable melodies and synth (often found in pop music) and a strong foundation of pop-punk, with lively acoustic drums and layers of heavily distorted guitar and bass.
Another thing that makes this album so exciting is that each song sounds different and unique. You can tell that, while keeping a consistent sound and instrumentation, the band tried to experiment and to do what they wanted. Listening to this album is a rollercoaster ride that goes from catchy pop-punk anthems like ‘Hate Me (Sometimes)’ and ‘Like That’ to heavier tracks such as ‘Shh!’ and ‘Wavelength’ then to the slower emo-rap(ish) ‘Silk and Satin’ and the heartfelt piano ballad ‘Drink To Drown’. The band really reinvented themselves with each song and somehow managed to make all of them fit together into an album perfectly. I don’t know how they did that, but it worked incredibly well.
I also couldn’t talk about Stand Atlantic without mentioning the lyrics. Bonnie Fraser writes my favourite lyrics. Firstly, the flow and rhythm is always very intentional and the melodies are memorable. Secondly, the word choice is very unique. Rather than being too straightforward, Bonnie uses a lot of abstract metaphors. This is a good thing as it can make the song relatable to more people, leaving more room for interpretation. It also can make the songs lighter and funnier even though the story might be very serious. She uses words that you have never heard in a song before. Not like some pop-punk bands using over-complicated words like ‘Copacetic’ or ‘Petrichor’ (sorry I do love Knuckle Puck and Bearings). But she uses original metaphors that only a creative mind could come up with. To be completely honest, I sometimes wonder if lyrics like “Gotta keep you like a big toe” actually mean something deep or if it‘s just here to be quirky and catchy but I love it either way.
Last but not least, I think loving an album has a lot to do with the context in which you listened to it or fell in love with it for the first time. For me, Pink Elephant means a lot to me because the day it came out, I experienced a very intense, full circle moment. I have been a huge Stand Atlantic fan since they released their Sidewinder EP and I also admire Stevie Knight’s work (their producer) a lot. On release day, I listened to the album as soon as I woke up in the morning and an hour later I was picking up Stevie and driving to his studio as I was recording a song with him that day. We talked about the album in the car and that was a bit of an unreal moment, being in a car with one of my favourite musicians ever talking about my new favourite album. In the car that night (I was dropping Stevie off at Stand Atlantic’s release party on my way home), we talked about the album again and also about how Stevie and I had met a few years before and how this very much was actually a full circle moment. So basically, even though I listened to the album three thousand times now, I will always remember the first day I listened to it and how it is special to me.
A Swift Farewell are pop-punk band from Sydney who’ve just released their brand new single ‘Mousetrap’ and a super fun music video to go along with it.
Check it out below and catch the official launch show happening at Sydney’s Burdekin Hotel on Friday, 30th July!