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. However, with that being said, I would like to take this moment to discuss a few songs from this project that stood out to me among the rest.
“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.
“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.
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.