First Impressions: Amorphous by Icon for Hire

First Impressions is a segment where I give my first (minimally edited) thoughts on an album that’s new (or new to me), without research, months of listening, or the benefit of letting it “ruminate”. It’s a way to get out my thoughts much faster than the time and effort I would put into real album reviews, thoughts, and track rankings.

Oh, bet you didn’t see this coming. The lady who writes about The Weeknd and Miley Cyrus also likes Icon for Hire.

Actually, Amorphous, and IFH’s discography in general, isn’t too far removed from The Weeknd’s slick production and Miley’s flair for catchy hooks and genre-hopping.

On this record, the band continues with their themes of recovery, mental illness, addictions–and the struggles and triumphs that are entailed within. I have always connected with them because of the rawness and candor of Ariel Bloomer’s lyrics, paired with in-your-face, head-bangin’ rock. While the band is predominantly alternative hard rock, they have always incorporated plenty of EDM elements to some degree. You can add rap to the list now, too. Sort of.

The rap works, except when it doesn’t. Ariel is talented, but the aggressive yell-singing she has done in the past is a much better fit. On another note, I really like the production and mixing on this album. They’ve managed to stay true to their core style and sound, but I can definitely tell a difference in the way they mix together the electronica and rock parts together. The lyrics are also very good on Amorphus. There are a lot of incredibly poignant, well-crafted, and even, clever moments, showing Ariel’s growth as a songwriter. I’ve always enjoyed the way she paints a picture, but she stepped it up a few notches in several places here.

Highlights: Songwriting, good production, well-mixed electronica with rock.

Lowlights: some really bad rhymes that should have never made it past first draft, and the rapping is sometimes cringe.

Favorite track: “Brittle”. It’s not even close. The album is quite good, but “Brittle” is Icon for Hire pulling out all the stops. There are lot of good songs, even great ones, on this album, but if I made a tiered track listing, “Brittle” would be in its own tier. Probably. This is First Impressions. I shouldn’t make bold statements.

Least favorite
: If “Impossibles & Obstacles” weren’t an interlude, it would be the worst track. But it’s actually “Warrior”. Empowering though it may be in content, I cannot abide the rap verse, or…well, I don’t want to spoil it. Read the track thoughts below.

Grade: My completely meaningless grade based on an arbitrary rubric and bias is 88/100 (B). That feels about right. Or it’s way off. Who knows!

Track-By-Track Thoughts on Amorphous

My real-time thoughts that were later re-edited, or largely left alone. It depends on the song. You’ll be able to tell which one is which. I can’t wait to facepalm when reading these later!

“Brittle (Prelude)” – I love the strings, but are preludes necessary? Especially when they’re this short.

“Brittle” – Liked this song almost immediately, but went from loving it on the first chorus to worshipping it on the second one. Setting the bar this high on the first song is a bold move. They pulled out their absolute best moves on this song from the writing to the song structure and composition to the theme and message. It brought me to tears the first time I listened. And the second, for what it’s worth.

“Curse or Cure” – The hard rock, anthemic chorus will probably do well in concerts. you know, if we ever get them back.

“Enemies” – This one sounds like a Nightmare Before Christmas reject remix. It slaps.

“Panic Attacks” – Part of me hates that this is a “rap”. But honestly, Ariel kind of kills it. Plus, it sounds like it’s from the POV of the panic attack, or at least the source of it, and I think that’s really interesting and unique. The lyrics are really good, too.

“Seeds” – Is this annoying or cool? Maybe both. Rhyming “flames” with “history” is the real crime.

“Thirteen (interlude)” – felt this way since you were 13? yeah, I feel that. But stream of consciousness about how you “play in A minor because it feels like me”–ugh, I hate when songs talk about being songs. I just don’t like interludes, actually. They usually feel like they weren’t good enough to be a full song, but the band obviously liked it enough to want it on the album. Make a full song, you cowards. Oh they did already; it was called “The Grey” and it was fantastic. That’s what this is.

“Background Sad” – a change of pace, this ballad talks about how maybe she won’t get any better. I really relate to this. Is this as good as it gets? Am I always going to be background sad?

“Last One Standing” – Sort of a “rise up” from the lows of “Background Sad”, this song is another anthemic, sing-a-long, gather the misfits, fight the good fight kind of song. Should I add some more descriptors?

“Waste My Hate” – Another anthemic one, this one has a bitter bite to it. Love the marriage of hard rock and electronica. Very well-blended on this song. Classic IFH. Another one that would rank highly, maybe even 2nd, if this were a ranked list

“Impossibles & Obstacles (interlude)” – It’s not that this isn’t well-written or well-rapped, it’s just that it’s bad and I hate it.

“Sticks & Stones”– This feels like the sister to “Waste My Hate”. Another anthemic, vengeful, hateful song. Not sure what makes this song different from “WMH”. Oh, yeah, it’s this: “hell hath no fury like me; don’t mess with her majesty. Well-behaved women rarely make an empire.” The empire line rhymes with nothing and feels really out of place at first, though I admit the echoing of “empire” after that makes it sit in the air and imprint on your brain, so maybe it does work.

My real problem is this: the lyrics “hell hath no fury like me; don’t mess with her majesty” are good on paper. But Ariel insists on pronouncing “me” like “may”, so it sounds like she’s rhyming “may” with “majesty”. It made me cringe and recoil so hard the first time I heard it that I stopped and rewound it trying to figure out what she was saying, and dear god, WHY pronounce it this way? It ruins an otherwise impactful bridge.

“Warrior” – The chorus rocks hard, but the way it all slows down so she can say “damn it feels good to be a warrior” with a very Kesha vibe is just not doing it for me. By this point in the album, this song sounds a little formulaic and doesn’t stand out much. It’s still an empowering message, and I can’t hate on that too much. But I can hate on the rap attempts and how half-done the song feels. Come on guys! Did you waste all your best moves on “Brittle”? These things should come from an authentic place, not a half-hearted, try to make it a rap/rock anthem place. That’s not a good place. You remember 2002.

“Only Be A Story” – a reflective song that has Ariel wondering about her legacy after her death. It builds up into a big rock number, but starts with just a simple, beautiful piano. Maybe “Thirteen” could have been worked into this somehow. They’re different melodically, but simplistic, introspective piano ballads can find a way to coexist together, I imagine.

–Queen Dopamine

4 Comments

  1. Shirley Megie says:

    This was excellent. Thank you

    1. Jessica says:

      Megie!!! This comment made me smile. Thanks for dropping by.

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