While Editors’ 2013 album The Weight of Your Love saw the band returning to a guitar-based sound reminiscent of their first two LPs, their latest venture, In Dream, has the British quintet revisiting the largely synthesizer-heavy sound they explored on 2009’s In This Light and on This Evening. However, where In This Light and on This Evening utilized keyboards and synthetic rhythms to create more pop-oriented music, In Dream uses similar instrumentation to create more than a few darker, moodier moments.
Unlike other post-punk revival bands, Editors have a unique instrument in the voice of their frontman Tom Smith. Whereas lead vocalists for similar acts such as Interpol, The National, and The Vaccines rarely travel beyond their baritone ranges, Smith has the ability to traverse from the aforementioned second lowest musical pitch to an unusually high falsetto from one breath to the next. This strength is used to great effect on the bulk of the tracks on In Dream.
The record’s opener “No Harm” begins with a foreboding synth and reverb-heavy percussion and vocals. Smith’s voice seesaws back and forth from stentorian baritone to delicate falsetto from lyric to lyric. Keyboards layer on top of keyboards, the tracks swell, building tension before the chords finally shift three minutes in and the song lifts, turning optimistic and hopeful. “Ocean of Night” follows the tension building and release style of the first song, and because of this, from the outset, the record gets off to a predictable and tedious start.
Fortunately, the second half of In Dream is a bit more varied. A duet with Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell titled “The Law” is the album’s appropriate centerpiece. Goswell’s sensuous, breathy vocals are a fine compliment to Smith’s smooth crooning. The two go back and forth over panning synth-washes that slide from left to right while industrialized percussion keeps the pace. The R&B sounding “Our Love” puts Smith in full-on sexy falsetto mode complete with a soaring, repeated chorus at the end. The record concludes with two stylistically similar tracks. The beautiful and simple penultimate ballad “At All Cost” has the music pulled back, allowing Smith to showcase his dynamic vocal range one last time. “Marching Orders” is the album’s final push, with a choral ensemble repeating the lyrics, “Trying to get more,” over a triumphant synth finale.
While far from perfect, In Dream is comparatively the most mature sounding album Editors has released to date. At over fifty minutes it may have benefitted the band to trim the fat a bit by cutting one or two of the more melancholic numbers present in the first half of the record. Still, there’s more good than bad here, and the group show that they’ve got enough creative energy to keep both loyal fans and casual listeners curious to hear what they’ll offer up next.