Album Review: Shapes in the Water – ‘Reinvent the Sun’

Posted: by The Editor

When atmospheric post-hardcore band From Fragile Seeds broke up, Andrew Inge and Josh Kelley weren’t content to sit out making music. Instead, they regrouped as Shapes in the Water, toning down some of the more aggressive elements of their previous band’s sound, and cranked out a promising debut EP called Once We Were Giants. 2021 saw the release of Acedia, which found them again tightening up their vocal-driven post-rock sound. In the three years since, they’ve added drummer Jack Sullivan (of always 0ther) and reunited with ex-From Fragile Seeds bassist Mike Perlowski, rounding out the group; it’s all led to the release of Reinvent the Sun, the band’s first full-length and their best project yet.

As with the work of From Fragile Seeds, the influence of Moving Mountains looms over Shapes in the Water; that strain of emo-inflected post-rock (or post-rock-inflected emo?) clearly marks Reinvent the Sun, a record that could appeal as much to fans of The World Is as to fans of Caspian. Still, Shapes in the Water isn’t in the business of rehashing other bands’ sounds; they take those blueprints to build something new. The opener “Homesick,” brief by the standards of Reinvent the Sun, sets the tone nicely: washes of clean guitar smeared over galloping drums, a gentle rise and fall on the song’s breathy hook, and it bleeds into “Nomads” before it’s even clear the song has ended.

“Nomads” largely follows a similar structure, but its peaks and valleys are even more extreme, a loping chorus that’d fit on Dealer cresting into a gossamer bridge that layers gang vocals like the howling of the wind. Most of the songs on Reinvent the Sun unfold this way: songs softly and slowly, just Inge’s voice and guitar, and then the band builds things up to a shimmering, smoldering chorus before replaying the whole thing in miniature during the bridge. It makes sense; both post-rock and emo, the two genres from which Shapes in the Water most clearly draw, traditionally rely on that push-pull, tension-release structure. It could feel like an over-reliance on formula if the eight songs here didn’t work so well together.

Nearly every song here flows seamlessly into the next so that the whole thing plays out like an extended suite rather than a collection of disparate tracks, and understood in this way each individual song’s structure serves the larger whole. It also serves to make the moments where the band flips that structure stand out more, such as the acoustic coda that closes the tempestuous “East or West” or the way the bridge of “New Chord,” the heaviest moment on the album, gives way to a nearly ambient sendoff. It’s an impressive balance the band strikes, and it makes Reinvent the Sun a thrilling first LP.

Disappointing / Average / Good / Great / Phenomenal

Reinvent the Sun is out tomorrow.

Zac Djamoos | @gr8whitebison

The Alternative is ad-free and 100% supported by our readers. If you’d like to help us produce more content and promote more great new music, please consider donating to our Patreon page, which also allows you to receive sweet perks like free albums and The Alternative merch.