opinion: hiatuses and comebacks

Written by Donna Borges

Usually when a band returns from a hiatus, they have taken that time to develop their sound or experiment in a way that departs from their previous work. Some fans are excited to hear how their favorite band has grown and change over their time off. Others just want the familiar sounds that led them to fall in love with that band in the first place. For some reason, the big names of early 2010’s indie and alternative music have decided to make a comeback. From Cage the Elephant to Vampire Weekend, it seems like every band I listened to my freshman year of high school is coming back with new music. It makes me wonder why they all decided to come back at the same time.

What is particularly interesting is how each artist has decided to market themselves and their new albums since comebacks can be seen as a fresh start. Sometimes bands return to reinvent and reposition themselves in the music market and sometimes they just return with the same sound.

I am always interested in how bands change and develop over time, which draws me to the albums that depart from the artist’s previous sound. For example, Arctic Monkeys recently returned from hiatus with Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino, an album that presented a more mature and developed sound while still drawing some aspects from the band’s previous discography. Arctic Monkeys has been one of my favorite bands for a long time and when they announced a comeback I wasn’t sure what to expect or what I wanted. I thought I wanted something similar to their debut album – an angsty garage rock sound.

What I received instead was something completely different, a clean and self-reflecting album that clearly demonstrated that lyricist and frontman Alex Turner had matured and aged since his bachelor phase as presented in 2013’s AM. I realized that through this album I felt more connected with the artist, and I understood just how much music really does come from the experiences of people behind it.

Vampire Weekend has done something similar, however it is less of a personal development than a development of sound as a group. Former band member Rostam left the group back in 2016 and I have seemed to think that this hiatus was time for the group to find their sound without the creative mind of Rostam. However, the group really has found a new perspective on their own sound. There are still intricate guitar riffs and Ezra Koenig’s familiar vocals, but there

The Black Keys have decided to keep their same sound altogether, even though they have not released music since 2014. Their two newest singles, “Lo/Hi” and “Eagle Birds,” have the same gritty, blues-inspired sound as their previous albums like Brothers. It seems as though their 2014 release Turn Blue was more of an experimentation than this new album will be, even though it was released just two years after El Camino. It makes you wonder why the band did not keep experimenting with the more mellow sound of their last album and instead reverted back to their original sound, especially since long hiatuses provide the perfect setup to return to the music scene with something new and unexpected. Either way I can’t complain because I’ve had “Eagle Birds” on repeat for the past week.

Another band that has stayed true to their sound is Cage the Elephant, who has returned with a new album Social Cues, their first new release since Tell Me I’m Pretty in 2015 – not counting their acoustic album Unpeeled from 2017, which didn’t feature any new tracks. Their latest album features a collaboration with Beck, who will also be joining them on tour this summer. Social Cues carries the same alternative rock and garage sound that the band has been known for. Cage the Elephant is another example of a band that has stayed true to their original sound even after being on hiatus for a couple years.

This is not to say that there is any “right” way for a band to return from a hiatus. As a music lover and a huge fan of all of these bands, it is interesting to see which route each band takes as they make a comeback. Take a listen to all of their new music if you haven’t already!

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