When it was released, it was evident that this was something that was true about all of the songs. While some did include electronic elements, they were less polished than songs like "Come In This Light" or "Sleeping Limbs". It felt more subdued, but not necessarily in a bad way. Retro is the right word for this album. Or chilled out. I find all of FIL's music to be relaxing, but this album took a step back from the huge sound space explored on Absent Sounds and became more introspective in it's stripped down state. "Happy Machines" starts the record off in a more abstract state than their other records have been, perhaps drawing off the acoustic work the band has been doing recently. It's less tight, in the sense that the music allows itself to ebb and flow as it needs to. It feels like it captures the grit of their earlier albums The Man With Wooden Legs and Able Bodies, but with the maturity and complexity they've come to demonstrate.
It broods, it's more haunting than anything they've put out before. "Hello" is an excellent example of this. The combination of the low repetitive bass with the finger-picked acoustic guitar lays down a foundation for Joey Vannucchi's echoing and harmonized vocals to float in like a whispering ghost. It's hard to listen to this one and not find yourself giving all your attention to it. "Come Back" is similar in terms of the truly haunting vibe; the simple melody that starts off the song captures your imagination, and Vannuchi begins crooning about a lost lover, a ghost of a relationship who's time had come and gone. The contrast between the sharp drums of the verses and the minimalistic approach to the pre-chorus creates a striking moment, forcing the listener to really give it their attention and not just let it be background music.
Now, not all of the songs on this record will keep you up at night (just kidding); some still embody the sense of urgency that FIL has mastered. "Sunlight" has that dreamy sense, both in sounds that melt together and lyrics like "we're swimming in the sunlight" that really give the song a fantastic, otherworldy impression. "The Monster" is probably the most intense song in terms of tempo and instrumentation, being much faster than most of the other tracks. It gets you tapping your foot along to the beat, which is more of the focal point of the song than the other instruments. It also feels more compelling, it has a dark sense despite it's fast pace and it draws the listener in in a way that gets your heart rate going; not necessarily because the monster in question is out there, but perhaps, as the lyrics seem to suggest, it's within each of us. "Nome" is not quite as fast paced as the previous two songs, but it has that larger sound in the chorus that gives it the familiarity of the Absent Sounds. It creates a great contrast as well, similar to what I discussed in "Come Back", where the verse is more muted and the chorus comes roaring in. "Feel Love" is probably the most upbeat song on the record, in terms of the tempo, sound, and lyrical content. I wouldn't say its happy, but I also wouldn't say it's sad. FIL is good at making music that makes you feel good without it being generically upbeat, a trait hard to come by in music.