Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

The Thermals: Now We Can See

Written by Matt Dineen
 Active ImageA lot of times when I hear a new album by a band I like, it's a ritual of excitement and potential anxiety, and it just makes me want to hear their material that I'm more familiar with so that I can sing along to every word. Usually after that first or second listen to their new songs, I have their old ones stuck in my head. From there, I either don't return to the new album—if it's too much of a departure from the sound I originally fell in love with—or (hopefully) it becomes the only thing I want to listen to, and I proceed to enthusiastically learn all the new words and melodies.
A lot of times when I hear a new album by a band I like, it's a ritual of excitement and potential anxiety, and it just makes me want to hear their material that I'm more familiar with so that I can sing along to every word. Usually after that first or second listen to their new songs, I have their old ones stuck in my head. From there, I either don't return to the new album—if it's too much of a departure from the sound I originally fell in love with—or (hopefully) it becomes the only thing I want to listen to, and I proceed to enthusiastically learn all the new words and melodies.

The Thermals
are one of my favorite bands, and their new record Now We Can See is definitely more of the latter. Their masterful 2006 release, The Body, The Blood, The Machine was a tough act to follow, but I think they pull it off well with this new collection of catchy, energized indie rock; or what they have coined "post-power-pop." The Thermals have managed to retain their solid signature sound while keeping it interesting with these fresh, clever sing-alongs.

Upon first listen, the opening track, "When I Died" did make me want to listen to the choice mixtape anthem off their last album, "Returning to the Fold," where singer/guitarist Hutch Harris belts out the lines: "And maybe when I die/Yeah when I die/I will die escaping/I'll die returning to the fold." But after a couple listens, this new song—and Now We Can See in general—grew beyond its predecessor and into the relevancy of this current moment.

The Thermals have also displayed, once again, their unique ability to incorporate such seemingly dark lyrical topics as death, the apocalypse, and fear, into upbeat verses and hook-laden choruses. They only take a break from the high energy rock for the somber ballad "At the Bottom of the Sea," which appears right in the middle of the album's eleven songs right after the infectious "oh way oh wowe's" of the title track.

The band formed in Portland, Oregon in 2002 and after putting out three classic records with Sub Pop, they have moved to Kill Rock Stars, which recently relocated to Portland from Olympia with this release. Other changes with Now We Can See include the addition of new drummer Westin Glass, formerly of Seattle's Say Hi, and producer John Congleton who has worked with Explosions In The Sky and The Polyphonic Spree.

The Thermals are one of those bands whose music has served as the soundtrack to various moments of my life since I was introduced to them through a mixtape a few years back. This was my initial thought when I heard this new album…that it will no doubt help define this year's springtime for me, and probably for many others as well. The official release date for Now We Can See also just happens to be on my birthday, April 7th. I'll consider this a present from the band!

If you've never heard the Thermals before, I would recommend picking up their previous work, but this is as good a place as any to start. For fans of the band, I can confidently say you will not be disappointed with this record. And you should definitely have enough time to pick it up and learn the words so you can sing along with the songs in April and May when the band visits your city. Check out their tour dates online and get ready...You will see!

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