The Notwist – Close to the Glass

Sub Pop

In the world of indie pop bands fronted by soft-spoken gentlemen with European accents The Notwist are the I.T. department to Phoenix’s smooth playboys more prone to computer nerdery than suave sexiness. There’s still plenty of romance though. If we ignore their early nu metal-leaning rock material (which we most certainly should) The Notwist’s 25-year career has been marked by quiet constantly shifting pop experimentation. They were at the forefront of the early-2000s glitch-pop movement a time when Morr Music reigned supreme and acts like Lali Puna Styrofoam and Dntel ran the world. When that bubble burst with a squelchy clicking sound and The Postal Service made their way onto The O.C. The Notwist moved on next forming the rap group 13 & God with a batch of alien-voiced Anticon rappers — another questionable choice that hasn’t aged as well as it could.

Ultimately however The Notwist have aged better than most early 2000s acts. That’s because at their core they write heartstring-tugging pop masterpieces that outlive whatever trends they’re attached to — both 2002’s Neon Golden and 2008’s under-appreciated The Devil You + Me are as arresting today as ever. And Close to the Glass their first proper album in six years and debut for Sub Pop is a fitting new entry into their catalogue.

The album opens with a warm pulsing synthesizer dub reminiscent of the band’s jazz-leaning side project the Tied + Tickled Trio. Samples synths and electronic experimentation are a force throughout though they’re utilized for fresh experimentation — tracks like “Into Another Tune” hold back the pure pop looping samples for a more nuanced build. Still The Notwist are at their best when they let loose with some arena-sized pop-rock — lead single “Kong” is among the best in their discography thanks in no small part to its pining guitars and earnest singalong while “Casino” is an emotionally arresting acoustic number thanks to Markus Acher’s trademark vocal gentleness.

Close to the Glass is perhaps a little subdued for a Notwist record but that only makes it more compelling. The group have woven exploratory synth passages speaker-crackling dub elements and the occasional moments of pop bliss in a seamless fashion. Best of all they’ve released an album that sounds like 2014 not 2004. Here’s hoping for another quarter century guys.