English musician Archy Marshall, a.k.a King Krule, has been releasing music since his debut EP in 2011, and has since been lauded as one of the most original members of the modern indie rock scene.
His signature blend of punk, jazz and electronic sounds put him in a lane of his own, and his newest album “Man Alive!” is yet another reminder of this fact.
Marshall’s bassy voice and cockney accent in combination with melancholy jazz guitar make up his signature sound, and on “Man Alive!” he gets more mileage out of this combination through improvements to his songwriting. The badass opener “Cellular” signals these improvements immediately. Chugging bass notes kick off the track while cascading electronic tones zip around the mix, as if Marshall is tuning the television in your mind to his particular style.
Soon his voice becomes monotone, but the song is held up by his energetic delivery and surreal lyrics: “There’s a French girl on my television. She’s crying in the palm of my hand.” As Marshall’s guitar work creeps in and cushions his frustrated voice with melancholy, the track culminates into an intense expression of regret and loss.
Tracks “Stoned Again” and “Alone, Omen 3” are similar in their emotional baggage but don’t drag down the listener due to their undeniable charm. On “Stoned Again,” Marshall growls rhymes with a hip-hop cadence over buzzsaw guitar riffs. On “Alone, Omen 3,” he sings with swagger, dancing over the rhythm of a smooth cymbal ride and a depressive chord progression. These tracks make it obvious that Marshall’s ability to express anguish while still being cool has only improved.
Even on the album’s subtler moments, Marshall’s songwriting is still more versatile than it’s ever been. The track “Airport Antenatal Airplane” in particular combines multiple tones into a cohesive whole. It begins with a soulful, pitch-shifted vocal sample, which is then joined by Marshall’s voice and guitar, setting a melancholy mood. But not a minute into the track, Marshall works in the sound of a spritely drum machine. This shifts the song in just enough of a bright direction that it moves from totally melancholic to a bit nostalgic and sentimental. “Underclass” is a similar track, where Marshall’s drugged out synths, vocals, and guitar are joined by a smooth and optimistic bassoon solo, fitting perfectly.
While it doesn’t take as many stylistic risks as his 2017 release “The Ooz,” “Man Alive!” is another consistently entertaining and bold release from Marshall. Hearing an album so successful in its creativity this early in the decade makes me very excited for the future of Marshall and the new style of jazz-punk he’s spearheading.