The album Twilight 2017 (see review) ended up in my top ten of best albums released that year. The album was for me personally, the best work Drifting Sun had released so far. In my review I wrote that sometimes words can hardly describe what you feel when you listen to an amazing sounding album. I called it a true masterpiece. Because that's just what it is. And therefore the 5 stars were in place. Now two years later the band comes with a follow up release. Titled Planet Junkie! The band's sixth album release.
Those who have been following this band since 2015 know that the lead singer in the band was Peter Falconer. The excellent singer with his particular voice, recognizable among thousands. However, he left the band in the summer of 2018, after three records, for health reasons. So, band leader and keyboard player Pat Sanders had to come up with a new lead vocalist. He probably could not find a permanent replacement and therefore opted for guest singers. So now there are three guest singers. Marc Atkinson (Riversea, Moon Halo), Colin Mold (ex-Karnataka) and Joshua Corum (Head With Wings). All of an excellent calibre. The rest of the band stayed intact. So once more you can enjoy the excellent performances of guitarist Mathieu Spaeter, bassist Manu Michael and drummer Will Jones. Next to the three guest singers more guest musicians can be welcomed as well. Namely Eric Bouillette (strings),Sarah Skinner (saxophone), Ben Bell (Hammond organ) and Conrad Cheng (clarinet).
On this new album nine tracks are sung, three by each vocalist and three tracks in a row each time which seems to me an excellent idea for the unity of the album. Each singer delivers an outstanding contribution and goes with the flow of the entire album. For me personally I don't think the vocals of each singer differ much with each other. I guess Pat tried to find singers who have the same kind of voice. Also the contributions of the other guest performers are outstanding. Hear for example Ben Bell on a ripping Hammond organ on the instrumental I Will Be King. It's just outstanding next to the great parts by Spaeter! Its one of the two instrumentals on the album. The other one is a short minimalist piano piece titled Life, that brings a moment of peace of mind in the spirit of the classical Eric Satie. This small instrumental interlude at the piano Pat dedicated to his father who died not so long ago.
A lot of the songs seems to talk about the loss of Pat's father, or loss in life in general. Good examples are Missing, Life, Night Time Sorrow and the heartbreaking Stay With Me, which is certainly for me one of the many musical highlights on the album. It's not easy to mention other highlights because each track touches you in one way or another. Maybe it's the already mentioned Night Time Sorrow, which has an intro which reminded me of Video Killed The Radio Star, which was one of the biggest hits of the Buggles, released in 1979. Or the earlier mentioned instrumental I Will Be King. Or Missing on which Marc sings small and sensitive in combination with the compelling music.
Musically it is guitarist Spaeter and keyboard player Sanders who shine on the album next to the three outstanding singers. Their solo parts are a feast for your ears. Or just listen to the strong acoustic guitar playing on Stay With Me and you will hear how amazing this guitarist is.
A final word goes out to the amazing art work on the cover. Its well done by Karen Koski, and at first sight makes you wonder what you are looking at. A planet? A volcano erupting? A tree? Or is it just a female figure looking up? You tell me!
Drifting Sun have made an excellent album. Because a lot is coming your way, the album has to grow for many people. Despite the differences between the voices, there is unity between the numbers. There are similarities, but also sufficient differences with the bands previous albums. Planet Junkie is just one amazing cool album, just like its predecessor and therefore certainly one of the musical highlights of 2019! Highly Recommended!
**** Henri Strik (edited by Dave Smith)
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