2011 release, the seventh studio album from the Indie outfit. Deep in the woods of Virginia, Gomez have conspired to make the most compelling, direct album of their 15 year career. The members reside across two continents (in Los Angeles, Brooklyn and Brighton, England) and after several months of sharing ideas through every facet of technology available to them, they came together with their longtime friend, Sam Farrar (Phantom Planet), to create their first self-produced offering since 2001's In Our Gun.
T3 Whatever's on Your Mind
T4 Just as Lost as You
T6 Our Goodbye
Gomez's continued growth, then, or lack thereof, is a bit disappointing for a band that once showed so much promise with a bastardized version of Britpop that culled its influences from everything from old delta blues to psychedelic folk to jam band noodling. The essential ingredients are all right there and kicking - Whatever's On Your Mind evenly splits up vocal duties between Ian Ball and Tom Gray's more soothing vox and Ben Ottewell's gravelly howl, and tracks like the complicated pop of "I Will Take You There" and groovy first single "Options" exemplify the best of what make Gomez such an exciting listen, albeit still a defiantly pop outfit. The way instruments drop in and out of the mix, the occasional horn and dub breakdown adding just the right spice to a tune, the fuzzy Sleigh Bells-ish bass thump of "Equalize," or how "Just As Lost As You" turns a standard power-pop frolic into a surging wave of brass and organ; the band's songwriting chops have undeniably aged well. If there's a disappointment here, it's that the band's biggest strength in Ottewell's distinctive pipes has been shackled with more weepy string-laden ballads like the schmaltzy "Our Goodbye" rather than the more in-his-wheelhouse rock of "Equalize."
For all the studio tricks and bits of stylistic flair the band brings to the table, however, Whatever's On Your Mind is still fundamentally the same record the band have been making for quite a while. "Options" is right up there with the strongest singles Gomez have ever penned, but Whatever's On Your Mind fails to leave much of a lasting impression aside from the hooks and the impressive way the band can make a straightforward pop tune sonically adventurous. They've settled into that sweet spot where they really don't have to do anything drastic to their sound: they put on a wild live show, and the band's intimate knowledge of the many ways a pop song can go from being merely serviceable to unique and exciting is something to marvel at after fourteen years. There's just something vaguely frustrating about a band as intrinsically talented as Gomez seemingly content to live out the rest of their days releasing albums that no one will remember in a few years time, rather than the genre-busting freshness that their debut promised.
On "Whatever's On Your Mind," Gomez offers more of the same, which is more variety than many bands offer in an entire career. Over the last fifteen years, Gomez has earned a large fan-base, especially overseas in their home country of England, thanks to an incredibly variable sound.
Ranging from blues to country roots while always keeping a foot firmly planted in popular rock, Gomez gives their audience a lot to digest, but the results are consistently enjoyable.
Opening with the first single, "Options," Gomez utilizes a driving acoustic guitar and drum partnership to get the band's seventh studio record started off with a bang. The vocals are more layered than many of Gomez's previous releases, but the chorus brings back the same feel-good tonality of previous hits like "See the World."
As "Whatever's On Your Mind" moves forward, it's clear Gomez was looking to provide their listeners with even more variety than usual. The sweetly sung "Our Goodbye," complete with a beautiful string arrangement, is followed by a significantly more rhythmic "Song in My Heart." Follow that with the distorted rumbles backing "Equalize" and the low electronic bass accompanying rare vocal effects on "That Wolf" and this is truly a new listening experience for everyone.
Quite possibly the biggest contributor to this ever expanding variety is the band's new writing process. During the earliest stages of "Whatever's on Your Mind," members of Gomez shared ideas over the internet; sending demo tracks to each other until single ideas blossomed into full songs. This allowed each member to have a larger say in the creative process and ultimately expand the horizons of the band's sound.
"Whatever's on Your Mind" is a musical journey for fans new and old. Although it lacks the single strength of "Bring It On" or "How We Operate," "Whatever's on Your Mind" finds harmony amongst many different sounds and creates an incredibly enjoyable listening experience from beginning to end.
Similar Artists: R.E.M., Blur
Track Suggestion: "Options"
It turns out I was just a poor listener.
I decided to listen again in my car and speaker system. So much better. It's music designed to be heard loud and needs a few repeat plays to get used to, much like I had to do with Sigh No More by Mumford & Sons. This album rewards the patient listener who enjoys pop music that isn't manufactured.