The latest album from Juno-Award-winning Vancouver indie vets Said The Whale officially drops today, although many of the band’s more avid followers were able to get their ears on As Long As Your Eyes Are Wide in its entirety a couple weeks in advance, all thanks to a clever crowdsourced viral marketing strategy.
In early March, the band shared a video on Instagram with an email address that fans could contact to access a personalized, private SoundCloud account that allowed them to stream the entire album from March 10-15 without leaking or sharing the link. Then, from the March 15-26, the band enlisted these early adopters to help promote the upcoming release by inviting their friends (and former lovers, perhaps) to taste test the album at private “listening parties.”
Team Rocktog took that idea to the next level, arranging an exclusive gathering at our friendly neighbourhood record shop Vinyl Envy on March 20, where we attracted some hardcore “Whalers” (I assume that’s what STW’s fans call themselves – if not, why not?) to preview the ten newly-minted tracks.
As Long As Your Eyes Are Wide is Said The Whale’s fifth album, and while at its core it pays tribute to the band’s indie folk rock origins, the glossy production and synth-laden pop melodies featured on this record are a marked departure from the group’s predominantly acoustic roots. In addition to the updated sound, the group has taken on a new shape, distilling itself down to a core trio with Tyler Bancroft and Ben Worcester continuing their co-writing duties, supported by Jaycelyn Brown on keyboards.
Thematically, the album features an emotional through line charting the dissolution of a relationship — how and when it ended, debate over whether it can be rekindled, and a wistful reminiscence of the way things used to be. The lead single, “Step Into The Darkness,” released back in January, hems and haws over pulling the plug on something that just isn’t working anymore, ultimately reaching a forgone conclusion: If it’s the end, well, let’s cross that line/Let us step into the darkness.
Other stand-out tracks include the upbeat-yet-contemplative “Heaven”, which features a throwback ’80s/8-bit-evoking sound and lyrics which posit that nostalgia must be the building blocks of eternal paradise, as well as “Confidence”, a bouncy, brash skewering of the illusory personas we manufacture to convince the world that we’re all fine and everything’s great, and that we should pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.
In addition to the dancey, synth-pop flavour featured throughout the album, Bancroft and Worcester also pepper in a handful of lugubrious ballads, including the gut-wrenching “Miscarriage”, which is as sorrowful as the title suggests, but takes a redemptive turn at its conclusion with both a sonic and emotive crescendo: It’s already our tomorrow/And the midnight sun will drive us home/And everything is beautiful.
Overall, As Long As Your Eyes Are Wide is certainly the most polished release to date from Said The Whale, from both a style and substance standpoint. The band’s enhanced sound celebrates its internal evolution while standing on the shoulders of everything that came before it.
Said The Whale are currently touring all across Canada in support of the new album through early May, in addition to a handful of U.S. dates in Buffalo, New York City and Philadelphia. They play in Victoria at Sugar Nightclub on Apr 28, which is preceded by a special show at Hope Bay Studio on Pender Island on Apr 27. Tickets for both events are still available. You can check out the video for “Step Into The Darkness” down below.