It’s surprising that Turnover haven’t seen more backlash for where their sound has gone in recent years. Peripheral Vision is still seen by many as one of the definitive releases of the 2010s’ indie-emo boom for embracing the headier, shoegaze-inspired sounds better than so many before them, but when 2017’s Good Nature saw that emo side take a backseat for a hazier brand of dream-pop, it didn’t feel as though the criticism was as magnified as it potentially could’ve been. It’s true that that’s somewhat a natural evolution within the band’s sound, but the lighter, breezier tones were something altogether different from where they’d previously resided, and while still a good album, it felt as though it heralded a new phase within Turnover’s career that would see them move further and further from their roots. That certainly proved true with the tracks they’d shown off before Altogether’s release, this time even putting dream-pop on the back-burner for middle-brow, easily-listening indie-pop that wasn’t bad in its individual moments, but could prove something of a mountain to climb when building an entire album from it.
And depending on how you look at it, that’s either more or less severe of an issue than it initially seems. It’s certainly true that Altogether is playing for a far more sedate, atmospheric experience than even the albums that preceded it, but that’s something that Turnover can pull off over the course of a full album, even if they’re verging so close to the limit of where it’s actually viable. After all, it’s not like Altogether is a huge departure for Turnover or something that isn’t natural in terms of where they’re sound is going, and despite the limitations that comes with in its own right – which, for the record, are valid criticisms that should be addressed – this generally does work for the lighter, more vibe-driven effort it’s aiming for.
Admittedly, that’s likely to be the biggest turn-off for some when it comes to how Altogether presents itself and what it’s trying to achieve. This feels like an album where the stakes are placed deliberately lower, reflecting the full extent of frontman Austin Getz’s upheaval to California, and how that breezier, more relaxed environment has seeped into almost every facet of this album. The more meditative tone stands out, particularly in the lyrics, with the escapism of Much After Feeling and Ceramic Sky and the calming embrace of love on Parties and Valley Of The Moon underlying a more blissful, aerated Turnover than ever before, and there’s something noticeably refreshing about how easily the band slip into that guise. It’s clear that a tremendous weight has been lifted with this album, and that lets an instrumental lightness take hold in a way that gives room for the dancing, delicate indie-pop of Much After Feeling or the bossa nova touches that come in the shimmering liquid guitars and bongos of Sending Me Right Back. Similarly, the cascading saxophones on Still In Motion and Ceramic Sky give an even clearer face to the smooth relaxation that’s looking to be so regularly conveyed, as do the softened indie-rock pulses of Number On The Gate and Plant Sugar, and the glittering sway of No Reply. It’s all immaculately composed and produced as well, never losing sight of how to best convey its goal with Getz’s breathy vocals and the overall lightness of touch of it all, and making for a suitably warm and serene listen on the whole.
Maybe a bit too serene though, as, while Turnover aren’t ones to tip right over into straight-up easy-listening, they honestly aren’t that far from it, and that can leave Altogether as lacking the meat on its bones that’s made this band’s previous work so resonant. The same argument could be made for Good Nature as well, but even more so on Altogether, the pace has been dropped and the light-dappled production reveals an album that’s incredibly light on memorable moments overall beyond an incredibly pleasant vibe. There’s an air of disposability here, not exactly crossing into forgettability thanks to decent instrumental work overall, but the lack of a standout hook or melody really anywhere massively limits what Turnover are capable of here more than ever before. It’s honestly rather easy to see why some would describe this album as boring, because with languidness being its primary asset and the fact that it wears that so prominently at all times, there’s not much here beyond an embrace of that particular mood that some simply won’t find great appeal in.
It’s that sort of thing which makes Altogether difficult to totally recommend outside of very certain circumstances. As a summer album or the soundtrack a lazy, sun-kissed day, this is absolutely ideal background music, but otherwise, it can be hard to appreciate exactly what Turnover are going for here. It’s definitely not bad, especially in that more melodic, subdued lane, but beyond the more objective instrumental and production praise, there’s not a whole lot being missed here that’s all that essential. That’s not to dissuade anyone from giving it a try because it’s definitely enjoyable pretty much through and through, but Turnover have made music with more of a lasting impact than this, with pretty much everything else they’ve ever done being able to satisfy that particular itch so much more.
For fans of: The 1975, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Metronomy
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Altogether’ by Turnover is out now on Run For Cover Records.