Portland post-punk outfit Shadowlands' third LP, 003, was born out of personal and professional strife.
Vocalist and principal songwriter Amy Sabin was already dealing with the death of a close friend when guitarist Jason Sartain announced he was leaving the band for personal reasons, creating a gaping hole in the band.
Fortunately for Shadowlands, Sabin's twin sister, Angie, stepped up to fill the void, making the group—which also features Sabin's husband, Casey Logan, on drums and her "band husband" of 15 years, Jesse Elizondo, on bass—a wholly family affair.
Shadowlands' main strength is their ability to commingle gothic lyrics, soaring vocals and deft arrangements that owe their uniqueness to the fact that the band members are all multi-instrumentalists. That cohesiveness is on full display on 003.
Shadowlands has always been very in touch with their dark side. 003's first two singles, "Low" and the shimmering epic "The End," marinate in loss and grief, both personal ("I tried so hard to make you stay/But you just can't wait to disappear") and political ("Awaking to this modern nightmare yet again today").
Songs like the excellent "Pining for Time" and album closer "Solitary Confinement" are given time to breathe—each clocks in at over six minutes—but never feel indulgent. That's due in large part to the arrangements, which feel familiar—the Dum Dum Girls, the Cure, and Chelsea Wolfe could all be named as influences—but are still surprising. It's hard to think of a rock record released this year that better employs synthesizers. 003 is filled with perfectly placed synth lines that complement the sparse guitars and propulsive drumming, from the gorgeously layered textures of the danceable album opener, "Broken Record," to the distinctive, strange sounds in songs like "Endless Summer."
On 003, Shadowlands has created captivating, if icy, worlds within each song. They have also proven themselves to be top-notch purveyors of gloomy but danceable post-punk and a band wholly capable of conjuring fantastic art out of great darkness.