Amarionette deftly balance pop hooks and emotional depth on career-best “Sunset On This Generation”

“Artistic growth” and “progression” can at times be nebulous terms. What does it truly mean to progress and grow as an artist, or as a collective? The answer can often vary wildly depending on the specific artist — yet what is clear is that true progression can be thrilling to witness. A band pushing themselves to new heights, and reaching their full artistic potential, can open new doors in their career that may never before have seemed possible.

Any way one wants to measure it, Amarionette have provided an excellent example of artistic progression on their new album Sunset On This Generation. The third full-length album from the Las Vegas pop rock/post-hardcore outfit, it is also the first full-length with Issy Berry as lead vocalist, following the AMVRI and Evolution EPs, and a steady helping of one-off singles. This album finds Amarionette at their most ambitious and stylistically cohesive, fusing the best elements of all their past releases while also pushing their sound forward.

The opening and title track “Sunset On This Generation” serves as a mission statement for the record as a whole, kicking things off with expanded emotional poignancy and introspection. “I need a little less fiction/Contradictions eating away at me/Buried in the light so far out of sight/Maybe you can help me find my vision,” Berry sings, immediately signaling the album’s darker lyrical themes. Berry and guitarist Nick Raya collaborated on lyrical content for the first time on this album. Raya’s writing influence shows most prominently in the album’s more emotional cuts, such as “Addiction”, a heartfelt look at how dependencies effect the lives of those close to a suffering addict.

Even the album’s more upbeat tracks, such as the funky “Modern Disco III” (the second sequel to one of the band’s most enduring fan favorites), are infused with a greater sense of introspection. This balancing act works wonders in providing the album greater depth and lasting value.

Musically, Amarionette have never seemed more united in service of a cohesive vision. Session drummer Joseph Arrington (of A Lot Like Birds and Royal Coda) dexterously navigates the album’s many stylistic shifts with the craft of a seasoned pro, providing a rock-solid rhythmic foundation upon which the album’s grooves are built.

The true highlight of Sunset On This Generation, though, is the melodic interplay between Raya’s intricate fretwork and Berry’s soaring earworms. Berry’s vocals frequently draw Michael Jackson comparisons for a reason, and he shines most brightly when he’s able to root his addictive hooks in emotional vulnerability… giving the listener plenty to dig into beneath the album’s (numerous) catchy grooves.

This greater depth is perhaps the greatest example of artistic progression to be found throughout the album. Three years after first reinventing their sound with the funky stylings of “Modern Disco”, Amarionette have finally found the perfect middle ground between pop hooks and emotional weight. This is a difficult balance for any group to pull off, and the band’s huge success at achieving it suggests a bright future ahead.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

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