AM by Arctic Monkeys is a record that garnered critical acclaim, was recognized for plenty of awards, went to number one on the U.K. charts (along with their five other studio albums) and is quite possibly the bands most popular and undeniably successful release. This is a band that has stayed relatively consistent throughout their entire career and this album especially is no different. AM is centered around a pure indie rock vibe, mixing together bright guitar, simple drum beats and slight vocal distortions and backings. Each song fits this mold in one way or another but the most notable aspect is how they managed to avoid extreme repetition. The songs seem to be pieced together one by one but create an image of the best curated music in the indie/rock genre. AM is a rare piece of work where there aren’t any bad songs on it; some are of course better than others but I wouldn’t say there’s a single track that I would want to skip on here. With that being said, I will be ranking all twelve songs on the standard edition of the album based on creativity, production, lyricism, and the song’s ability to contribute to the album as a whole.
#12. “I Want It All”
Possibly the most lyrically hollow track on here, “I Want It All” is a song about a love interest backed with an easy guitar tune and a “shoo wop” section during the bridge. With the chorus being just “I want it all” repeated twice and the rest of the lyrics being impossible to decipher without searching for them online, this is a very listenable track but one that’s not the most memorable. The guitar solo is the most defining feature of the song which fades away just as quickly as it begins.
#11. “Do I Wanna Know?”
Weirdly obsessive lyrics paired with that guitar riff are what makes this song stick in the listener’s mind but besides that, there’s not much to say about this one. It’s a great song and undeniably one of my favorites but it is one that meshes a little too well into the other ones.
#10. “Mad Sounds”
This one is a strikingly simple song about enjoying music and how a good tune will “make you get up and dance”. The way this one starts out soft and adds various uncomplicated instrumentation throughout the duration of the track keeps it all smooth and contained. In comparison to “Mad Sounds” this one also features an “ooh la la la” moment during the bridge, bringing in another 50’s inspired moment to the record. As well as it fits on the track list as a whole, this is another one that seems a bit formulated and blends far too in with some other songs.
#9. “Snap Out Of It”
This is the poppiest song on here, with some pretty obvious references to oblivious, clingy girls. The lyrics find the narrator urging this girl to move on and let him go with the line “It sounds like settlin’ down or giving up/ But it don’t sound much like you do”. I like the comparison on here of how sometimes finding the person you want to spend the rest of your life with can be seen as giving up and how he’s saying that he’s not the right fit for her. It’s interesting to think about how many people out there cling on to one person like this and just let go of everything else in their life to have that small sense of stability. We’ve all known at least one person who fits the mood of this song and maybe we were that person at one point. But this one is fun, energetic and different than most Arctic Monkeys songs but creates a nice alternative tune to this record that’s mainly comprised of darker, indie sounds.
#8. “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?”
A song about only contacting a person when you’re in the completely wrong state of mind, this one is brought to us packaged in simple melodies and toned down instrumentation. The lyrics are very straightforward, with lead singer Alex Turner’s vocals also being unfiltered which creates a rather cool vibe all while describing such an unfortunate and annoying situation. In the midst of so many other songs that need some deeper understanding, I really enjoy this one because it is surface level; not all things need to be deep or have intricate lines to be considered great. This song also contains my favorite guitar solo which is a wispy rendition of the chorus melody. It’s not the most intricate but it is enjoyable, and sometimes that’s all you need.
#7. “I Wanna Be Yours”
Okay but seriously, a band like the Arctic Monkeys are the only people who can get away with lines like “I wanna be your vacuum cleaner” and “Let me be your coffee pot” and still make a great (albeit strange sounding) song out of it. Do I even need to elaborate with this one?
#6. “R U Mine”
“R U Mine” is a song that is so well put together from the vocals to the instrumentations to the entire feel of it all, simply because it’s something that’s reminiscent of their previous sound. And it’s obviously a good song; it was released as the lead single after all. However, as safe as it may be, this track serves its purpose and I have to admit that it’s very well executed. From the easily recognizable guitar riff to the overall rock star vibe of the entire track to story about a confusing relationship, it’s relatable and beyond energetic. It’s a classic Arctic Monkeys tune that provides a Segway into the rest of their discography.
#5. “One For The Road”
This one kind of reminds me of “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High” in the way that it’s structured around a chill vibe with an instrumental section after the bridge, only with better lyrics. This is another song based on a broken relationship, but this time it contains lots of symbolic references to casinos and “Some out of tune guitar/ Soundtrack to disaster”. The narrator and his love interest both know their relationship is a sort of gamble that they’re both losing and he’s asking for “one more drink for the road” before he leaves and possibly never sees her again. The double meaning of a lot of these lines is what makes the track worthwhile, especially the chorus part that goes “There’s no need to show me around/ I feel like I’ve been here before”. Initially it sounds like he’s describing this persons place of residence but it could also refer to being in a similar situation previously. This one’s plenty of fun to think about and listen to overall, with the “ooh ooh” parts fitting perfectly at any point in the song.
“Fireside” is a track among these twelve that confidently stands on it’s own but still aids in keeping the record cohesive. It’s a little spacey with the way the guitar parts are played from the intro to the bridge, and it’s a sound that’s easily recognizable. In terms of production, it’s a new idea. In terms of lyrics it’s yet again about a relationship, but this time it talks about not being able to leave even you know you need to. This one is easy to understand but nonetheless any alluring and is a song well done.
#3. “No. 1 Party Anthem”
As much as some of the other tracks touched upon a 50’s feel, this one takes that on in it’s entirety. It’s slow tempo, featuring a piano in the background and a guitar riff that makes you feel like you’re at a high school dance from seventy years ago. The ironic thing, however, is that the lyrics describe a modern day nightclub that has “Lights in the floors and sweat on the walls/ Cages and poles”, with the narrator trying to muster up his courage to talk to a girl he’s been looking at from across the bar. Every lyric is laden with a party theme and the bridge is especially interesting where it creates an overall picture of this event with the idea of falling in love with strangers, taking pictures, uncertainty of who’s who and of course, your favorite songs (hence the title “No. 1 Party Anthem”). The irony of the romantic feel of the song paired with the irksome themes of present day festivities bring these two different worlds together into one cohesive, well formed track.
#2. “Knee Socks”
Build upon varying tempos and dreamy verses with pop inspired choruses, this is undeniably the most experimental track on here. Its slower verses are contradicted by fast, almost rap-like choruses where Turners vocals are layered to give an almost choral effect. The melodies are easy to get into amid all of the changes this track endures and the lyrics tell a very particular story. It’s centered around this relationship during the wintertime depicting images of “January blues” and “Coats all piled high”, and how these two people are a mess who only call each other up in the middle of the night. “When the winter’s in full swing/ And your dreams just aren’t coming true/ Ain’t it funny what you’ll do?” demonstrates a sense of desperation but at the same time the narrator speaks of their relationship in the past tense. Confusing, yes. But is it relatable? Also yes. The way this song almost contradicts itself is so typical of everyday life it’s almost comical.
“Arabella”, the fifth single off of AM, is a space-y inspired, almost frantic tune about some gorgeous woman the narrator is obsessing over. Lyrics talking about her “interstellar-gator skin boots”, “Barabrella silver swimsuit”, “70’s head” inspired fashion and tastes, along with describing her “lips” as “the galaxy’s edge” and “her kiss the color of a constellation”, we’ve got ourselves a well drawn out image of who this girl is. The lyricism on this track is simply amazing, bursting with such vivid images which can also be found during the chorus, describing how the sunset can’t compare to her beauty. The limited instrumentation compromised of mostly guitar and drumming to keep pace lead up to the best guitar solo to be featured on the record and allow the sole attention to be focused on the intricate wording. “Arabella” proves to be the centerpiece of the record, bringing out some of the bands absolute best talents.