A wonderful looseness and (almost) jazz aesthetic permeates Optimist: it sprawls across four and a half minutes without a care for conventional arrangement or contemporary expectations – and is all the better for it.
There are nods to bands like Radiohead, for sure, but the character and definition of individual parts is more like the attention to detail that Electric Soft Parade pay to their compositions. Certainly, the syncopated and percussive use of lead vocal feels like an instrument being exploited in a way that almost makes lyrics feel secondary to rhythm and colour. The joyful, exuberant and unvarnished, untreated falsetto is truly uplifting.
This approach makes Optimist a fresh listen. It’s crisp in some regards, and awash with lush arrangement and effects in others. The whole comes together in a satisfying flurry of ideas that comes to a false end about 3 minutes in – when a whole new feel emerges in a bridge section that wouldn’t feel out of place on a classic prog album from Genesis or Marillion! The awesome drum syncopation halts for a moment to allow Hackett-style liquid guitar riffs to build to re-introduce the original motifs of the song.
The guitar rhythms, textures and sounds are joyful, too. At some moments, it’s playful and dance-y, in the way that Youssou N’dour’s music can often be. Coupled with the intricate and sensitive drum parts and the song is further elevated – greater than the sum of its parts.
In addition to the music, Plastic Barricades have gone above and beyond with the artistic visuals for the accompanying video. Optimist embellishes the glass half full concept, and pairs it with a series of clips including toy houses, toy people, glitter – all intermittently swirling around in the chaos behind the glass. A bizarrely captivating, beautifully thoughtful and colourful video, which holds tight to your attention right through to the end.
Genre-busting in the way that only music with disparate influences can be, Optimist bears many repeat listens as you unwrap its sonic charms.