Our lives are filled with contrasting elements. And while we can’t do much about the different extremes we are subjected to, the best we can do is find, and maintain a balance. In sustaining and balancing these elements adequately — something that can only be learned with time and practice — we can find control and beauty within the madness. This is something indie-rock band flipturn manages to do masterfully on their debut album Shadowglow.
Prior to this release, flipturn grew most of their following through word of mouth from enthusiastic concert-goers. Drawn by their chemistry and talent, their audience grew bigger by the day. “When we’re onstage together, we go crazy (...) we feed off one another’s energy, and the audience sees that and feeds off it, too. We’re all building something together” says bassist Madeline Jarman. This level of chemistry is hard to replicate outside of a live setting. Mostly written off as a “you had to be there to get it” phenomenon, any attempt to convey and balance higher scales of energy usually falls flat once transferred to audio-based mediums. But this isn’t the case when it comes to Shadowglow.
One of the reasons why Shadowglow works so well is that it feels like a destination. A controlled environment where you are faced with all the emotionally chaotic elements of life, as well as the very beautiful ones. Listening to the album, you end up finding yourself sitting comfortably in the (theorized) eye of said emotional tornado, calmly taking in the show. Filled with impeccably, layered basslines, percussion and rhythm guitars, all guided by Dillon’s angelic, yet powerful voice, the idea of this band being a certain force of nature doesn’t feel far from the truth.
The album starts off with “Fall,” an introductory track to the universe they built from the ground up. It is one of those understated intros - the first step into the pitless universe that is Shadowglow. This is followed by the lead single “Playground,” a sort of soft landing from the fall. An ode to the loss of innocence, and that invisibility we once wore with pride in childhood, “Playground” is one of the many atmospheric masterpieces on the record. The following tracks advance the buildup of the soundscape stretched throughout the album. A perfect balance of breath-taking verses, exhilarating instrumental breaks, and grounding forces all contribute to the album's immersive nature.
From “Brooklyn Baby'' and ”Halfway” on, everything seems to fall into place. The aforementioned double singles serve as a heartbroken tale of two cities. Although both tracks came as a package deal, I feel this strange sense of loyalty towards “halfway.” Freeing, spacious and grand; the way Maria felt while singing atop those Austrian hills is the way I feel every time Dillion’s voice comes barreling through the chorus.
The second half of the album feels a little lighter. The seventh track, “Consideration,” is a mix of billowy vocals and beautifully layered, dissonant piano phrases. “Goddamn” comes thrashing through the tracklist, offering a very relatable take on modern day ennuis concerning social media and burnout. Followed by “Hollow,” an enticing and cinematic homecoming anthem, and the calming “Burn,” which perfectly rolls into the epic intro of “Weepy Woman.” A couple of tracks later and we’re met with the closer “orbit.” A wide lens view of the universe they’ve built throughout these 14 songs, “orbit” feels like the perfect intergalactic credit track to the Shadowglow experience.
Shadowglow is a record you don’t want to go by in the blink of an eye. It’s something you have to experience and savor in the moment, which is partly why it feels like a trust exercise on behalf of the band and their listeners. flipturn concocts this perfect recipe bubbling with wild and electrifying energy, trusting that their audience will follow along and meet them halfway and willingly. And the listener is to trust that they won’t be led astray, no matter how far the fall seems to be. In true flipturn fashion, they delivered on their promise, and much more, leaving no room for doubt about their future, or talent.