By Ziggy Merritt
Releasing an album in December is always risky. By this time, many publications have already wrapped up the year in a succinct and ordered list of the year’s best music. Adding to this is the holiday season in full swing, where a large swath of the population is, listening to or subjected to, a continuous stream of holiday music starting with Bing and ending with Wham! But before the book closes on the, if nothing else, interesting, year of 2017 Cork natives, The Grey Merchant offer up Avenue De Rennes, their latest LP that is well worth your consideration.
The album itself is a series of swift and surprising zig zags from genre to genre. Though often staying in the broad lane of alternative rock, Grey Merchant merge into side lanes of shoegaze, ambient soundscapes, and wistful dream pop. Avenue De Rennes admittedly takes its time to impress, spilling flakes of true inspiration across all its eclectic tracks, but giving the most promise once the group eases the tempo and settles into something more relaxed.
Starting on a rockier road with “The Last Transmission” and “Convenience”, Grey Merchant exposes a harder edge of alternative rock that, at times, feels indebted to emo revival and pop-punk of the mid-00’s. These dalliances steer far away from being unlistenable but don’t offer much in the way of distinction. Instead, they’re tried and true tracks that lead up to the album’s deeper second half that’s built on the back of sampled monologues and fuzzy pop.
“A.L.P.H.A.B.E.T. Soup” offers up a vital and anthemic hook for the album, while “Spotless (The Protecting Veil)” and “Never Give Up, Anything is Possible” both immediately plug the listener into a hopeful feeling of inspiration. Compared to Avenue De Rennes as a whole, they’re both on the quieter end of the spectrum, closing out this latest effort in waves of layered ambient elegance. It’s not overstated, and perhaps, at the end of this year, this bit of good-natured, if idealistic, optimism is what everyone needs.