Arctic Monkeys' Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino: What You Need To Know
Arctic Monkeys fifth album, 2013's AM, was their most successful to date, landing the Sheffield four-piece their first bone fide hit on the other side of the Atlantic and becoming that year's second-fastest selling album, behind only Daft Punk's first record in eight years.
In the five years that have elapsed since, frontman Alex Turner has delivered a second album with his side project The Last Shadow Puppets, which arrived in 2016, but it's all been fairly quiet on the Arctic Monkeys front since their AM tour wrapped in 2014.
However, on April 5th the band emerged from their hiatus and announced details of their sixth studio album. It's called Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino and it arrives in stores today. Here's everything you need to know...
A little background...
After the diversion of a second Last Shadow Puppets album with friend and collaborator Miles Kane, Turner began to slowly turn his attention back towards Arctic Monkeys, but as recently as January 2017 he seemed to be struggling with, if not full-blown writer's block, at least a lack of ideas that excited him. In a recent interview with Billboard, Turner says that the catalyst for the new album's songs came when he was given a Steinway upright piano as a gift for his 30th birthday: “Prior to that point I didn’t really have many ideas, and in my memory, that was the point at which they started to come. I really do think sitting at the piano tricked me into writing a lot of this stuff.”
After recording demos at his home studio using an old Tascam 8-track, the band reconvened at La Frette studios near Paris, where the majority of the recording was done for the new album.
Who's producing it?
The band's longtime collaborator James Ford is back behind the mixing desk once again, co-producing the album with Turner himself.
Any special guests?
A few, yes. Mini Mansions pair Zach Dawes and Tyler Parkford both add guitars and keys to 'American Sports' and the superbly-titled 'The World's First Ever Monster Truck Front Flip', former Klaxons man puts in a shift on keys for 'Four Out Of Five', 'Science Fiction' and album closer 'The Ultracheese', while there are also appearances from Chicago-based singer-songwriter Evan Weiss and Australian multi-instrumentalist Cam Avery.
What does it sound like?
Given Turner's comments about writing mostly on piano for the new album, it should be no surprise to learn that the songs on Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino are less guitar-led than those on their previous albums. That's not to say that the guitars have disappeared – they're still very much present and correct on the new album – but here they fit into a much more cinematic soundscape that makes use of all kinds of vintage keys and curios such as a dolceola, a harpsichord and a Vako Orchestron, a kind of mellotron-type instrument heavily used by Kraftwerk.
'Four out of Five' is probably the most familiar-sounding song on an album that, broadly speaking, has more in common with some of Turner's work in Last Shadow Puppets than any of Arctic Monkeys' earlier records, but elsewhere the band take a bold step into a more orchestral landscape, with lush string arrangements underpinning songs like album closer 'The Ultracheese'.
Does it deliver?
Six albums in, Turner and co. have delivered what is arguably the band's most grown-up record to date. It doesn't have the immediacy of its predecessor and will take a few listens before the new tunes begin to tighten their grip on the listener, but nobody could blame Arctic Monkeys for wanting to expand into new territory with their sixth album and and the songs here point to an ambitious new direction for the band. Whether it can match the commercial success of AM remains to be seen, but there's plenty here for fans to get their teeth into and enjoy.