Continuing one of the rapidest musical evolutions in recent memory, The Horrors’ third album finds them so far removed from their Strange House, Edward Gorey goth-punk beginnings that they’re completely unrecognizable. Building on 2009’s career-making Primary Colours, Skying is painted in even broader, blurrier shoegaze smears; the title even refers to a ’60s-era, primitive phasing technique, which hints at the warped textures within. But where the post-punk-derived Primary hewed toward the gloomily monochromatic when it came to actual melodies, Skying finds The Horrors embracing the anthemic choruses of ’80s new wave—epitomized by “Still Life,” with its evoking of Simple Minds in their John Hughes heyday—and, on tracks like “Changing The Rain” and “Dive In” especially, the blissed-out grooves of “baggy”-era Madchester. It’s another expertly muso mélange of influences (an OMD keyboard intro here, a woozy My Bloody Valentine guitar glide there), but here, it produces an even more singular, arresting sound.
Occasionally, that’s true even of individual songs, as when “Endless Blue” nods off on a bed of hazy tones and a faraway brass section before the face-slap of its hard-charging rock riff. Its sprawl and scope are mirrored in the mesmeric, krautrock-inflected “Moving Further Away” and the closer “Oceans Burning,” a lazy-day, lysergic lover’s ballad that climaxes in a shrieking bad trip of a coda. Matching the slow grandeur of his surroundings, singer Faris Badwan stretches his bats-in-the-belfry croak into a statelier, more nuanced croon, effortlessly sliding from the New Romanticism of “You Said” to the husky, paranoid whispers of “I Can See Through You.”
Badwan hasn’t yet found a way to fit his newly expressive voice to evocative lyrics: Skying boasts countless vague allusions to waking up, seeing things, rain, and/or the ocean. But given The Horrors’ rapid growth from fascinating curios to formidable artists, there’s every reason to believe they’ll have it all worked out next time—and even more reason to look forward to hearing it.