Slaves look “To Better Days” with KILLER new album (review)

Slaves, 2020

I’ve personally given Slaves a lot of coverage this year – and for good reason. They’ve released a staggering SEVEN singles ahead of their new album, To Better Days. And I’ve loved every single one so far. New vocalist Matt McAndrew had large shoes to fill, but could you ask for a better replacement than a Voice runner-up? Now that the album is set to drop this Friday, I have a chance to examine it front to back.

Adding Matt McAndrew to the mix was a novel idea, as he meshes with Slaves’ instrumental backing superbly. With a voice that can send tingles down the spine, Matt takes on personal struggles with regret and reflection on To Better Days, with fascinating lyricism supplementing his voice.

The instrumentation within the album is just as incredible. Adding a layer of emotion to the words, the drum fills, guitar riffs, and backbone-bass all work in unison to make Slaves a band worth multiple listens. These are all brought out with fantastic production adding little quirks and cues sprinkled into each piece, like the harmonies in “Wasting My Youth” and the back-and-forth in the chorus of “Talk To a Friend.”

Having already heard more than half of the album and thoroughly enjoying what I’ve absorbed so far, it’s safe to say my hopes were high for the non-single tracks. Thankfully, Slaves delivered in this area as well. “Witch Hunt” and “Secrets” are just as emphatic and memorable as any of the songs you’ve already heard.

Speaking of memorability, it’s the reason I’m so fond of To Better Days, and why Slaves has been in my regular rotation for a year now. “Bury a Lie” comes out swinging in its first second; “Talk To a Friend” has the meta lyrics “I spent the next five lines askin’ bad questions;” “Prayers” sees Matt belt at full force in the infectious chorus; there’s something that sticks with the listener with every song, and shows that the risk of releasing so many singles panned out as they can all be held to the same high standard.

When I spoke to Matt, he said the band has been sitting on these tracks for more than a year. I’ve been anxious to hear the final product, and it was more than worth the wait. The album structure makes To Better Days work well with its single-to-nonsingle ratio, and I love the choice to close out with “Like I Do” as a powerful finishing message. I still have to let the new songs resonate with me, but I am ALL about To Better Days, and am excited to see what Slaves does with their name change and new music slated for later this year. Much like Dance Gavin Dance and Code Orange, you can witness them perform tracks off To Better Days live at The Whisky on August 5th by purchasing a ticket here.

Rating: 9.5/10

A press copy of To Better Days was provided courtesy of Atom Splitter PR.