Sound — 7
For a band that originally started with an unabashed desire to emulate the raw rock sound of 20th-century bands that inspired them to make music in the first place, The Horrors have walked a fairly successful path while also being sneered at for boldly going where others have already been, sound-wise. Perhaps it was their equally gritty and kitschy goth aesthetic that made it entertaining to keep an eye on how the rookie British band was going about their image-generated torment and homage-driven music, but as The Horrors progressed in their career, their sound would also progress forward and keep those watching (whether out of genuine interest or out of rebuking obsession akin to watching reality TV shows) intrigued with what The Horrors had to offer next.
With each album, extending from their gutter-punk debut, "Strange House," becoming more and more centered on a psychedelic and shoegazing sound, their new album, "Luminous," is, as the title would imply, their "shiniest" album thus far, and the shoegaze essence of this album - combining rich, ambient synths with fuzzy, obscured guitars and frontman Faris Badwan's ethereal vocals - conjures a sauna-like haze that warms and comforts. These elements are found right out of the gate with "Chasing Shadows," which contains a slow-roasting ambience that simmers for almost three minutes before dropping into the full ensemble of instruments. The synthetic-centric characteristic of the album's sound is most prominent, with synth lines playing very substantial roles (such as in "In And Out of Sight," "I See You" and "Sleepwalk") and guitars being armed to the teeth with effect pedals (you'll find nice, echoing guitar lines in "I See You," sirening - almost whale-song-esque - guitar lines in "So Now You Know," and a generous heap of guitar manipulation in "Mine and Yours"). The bass and drums keep the album from dithering aimlessly in the clouds - with basslines staying clear and concrete (with some nice basslines in "First Day of Spring," "In and Out of Sight" and "I See You"), and drum-lines being simple and reliable (though the prolonged interlude in "I See You" gives drummer Joe Spurgeon a nice long moment for an active, tom-filled drum-line which is the most lively one on the album).
Though the atmospheric dreaminess of the album is the primary cut - and appeal - of the album, The Horrors try not to let it consume the entire album. The punchy guitar chords in "First Day of Spring" and "Falling Star" add a bit of pep and indie-rock flavor to the album, but the continual outro riff - a la shoegaze influence - drags along and becomes irritating in its repetition. "Change Your Mind" also brings a refreshing shift from the aural opacity of the rest of the album, where the lighter-waving love song fills as little space with the instruments as possible in order to give Badwan's vocals the spotlight.
Lyrics — 7
Badwan's contribution to "Luminous" fits as a whole with the aesthetic of the album: with his vocals being airy, the substance in his lyrics appeals in a similar vein of containing little heaviness and density, not needing much interpretation. The breadth of Badwan's lyrics evokes natural and supernatural visualizations and experiences, such as in "Chasing Shadows," "First Day of Spring," "I See You" and "Jealous Sun," and oftentimes he sings lines slow - elongating syllables greatly - or repeating simple lines (such as "so now you know/turn away" and "I see you/and all the things you might do") as a joint-effort with the shoegaze-produced fog to hypnotize the listener. This method changes in "Change Your Mind," where the clarity in Badwan's vocals this time lets him plead his case in a love triangle that has him in knots ("hey, I still wonder/would you ever leave that boy for me?"), and while it's not the most riveting song about lovesickness, it does its job emoting something different than the dreamscaping lyrics found throughout the rest of the album.
Overall Impression — 7
"Luminous" takes things a step further down the path of lucid dreaminess that The Horrors' experimented with in their previous album, "Skying," and this album has just about left the band's beginning sound in the dust. If you're longing for the sound The Horrors had started out with, this album contains none of that - while the band's tattered goth style is still intact, their sound has left the garage and is now floating around freely in a twinkly - starred sky. "Luminous" isn't the most brilliant album of them all, but it makes for a euphoric and pleasing listen from front to back.