White Lies | Ritual (Fiction)

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Ritual reveals a band more self-possessed and self-aware.

There’s an air of restraint on White Lies’ sophomore release, and it’s apparent from the very first track, the slow and smoldering “Is Love.” They let the rein out a bit on “Strangers,” which finds frontman Harry McVeigh proclaiming, “I’ve got a sense of urgency/ I’ve got to make something happen.” His smooth vocals nearly soar on the refrain: “There’s nothing stranger than to love someone.”
The 1980s are reworked on “Bigger Than Us,” with its galloping gait and synthesized accents. Swelling and surging, the song’s nearly anthemic in its ability to stick with the listener. The band takes a step back with “Peace & Quiet,” which is as it sounds: smooth and gentle. Yet it’s anything but boring; the flowing refrain is lovely…and insinuatingly catchy.
There’s something of a classic feel to “Streetlights”—not too far a stretch for a band that takes its cues from the days of New Wave. Perhaps it’s the keyboard: simple, yet elegant. With its fuzzed-out guitar and high-in-the-mix cymbals, “Holy Ghost” is more textured, the customary keyboards returning on the refrain. The drumbeats come hard and heavy on track seven, “Turn the Bells,” lending a tribal feel to the cathedral anthem.
Unfortunately, the album sags on its final three tracks. “The Power & the Glory” and “Come Down” find McVeigh veering into Paul Banks atonality; his voice is best when he’s challenged by multiple octaves. “Bad Love” is redeemed only by its refrain, and only just barely.
On the whole, Ritual reveals a band more self-possessed and self-aware, and more willing to share its talents with new audiences. This is the sound of a band growing up, a band largely taking its strengths and, rather than duplicate, honor what came before while reaching for what’s ahead. B+ | Laura Hamlett
RIYL: Interpol, Joy Division, Depeche Mode
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