With a nearly two-decades-long career, it’s hardly any wonder that The Kooks have been looking for fresh creative ideas and new sources of inspiration. Having teased fans with their EP ‘Connection: Echo in the Dark, Pt. I’ earlier this year, the indie trailblazers took to Instagram to share that one of their new creative ways was to release their sixth studio album in three instalments. Partially written and recorded in Berlin, ‘10 Tracks to Echo in the Dark’ combines the familiar indie-rock sounds we’ve come to associate with the band and a fresh synth, electro-pop feel featuring refreshingly unconvoluted messages throughout. Adopting this staggered release approach undoubtedly helped the band generate a huge sense of anticipation for the climactic event of having the complete collection and with the final instalment finally here, it’s safe to say that The Kooks have succeeded in living up to the high standards expected of them.
The groovy title track ‘Connection’, is a pure and uncomplicated celebration of love that starts the album off on a high. The personal track highlights love at first sight and straightforward devotion, which is a powerful start to the album, whereas the infectious ‘Cold Heart’ makes full use of new digital technologies in order to explore an electro-pop feel while also retaining the same confidence and edge that is seen in the likes of ‘Naive’ from 2006.
Providing a seamless transition into the second EP instalment, ‘Closer’, feels as upbeat and appropriate for The Kooks as any of their best works. The scintillating track oozes with love-filled lyrics and retains clear links between other tracks on the album such as ‘Connection’, with both focusing on proximity and intimacy. Similarly, ‘Modern Days’ is another celebratory anthem, perfect for a summertime release. The reggae-pop-tinged track, which is more inward-looking, is an ode to his son and is a slightly more characteristic sound for The Kooks with a familiar, provocative edge to the lyrics.
The upbeat, lightly ska-tinged track ‘Beautiful World’, which was recorded with Milky Chance, offers a stark contrast between the differences in life. It conveys a sense of realism and awareness of contextual reality alerting listeners to the hopeful and bright sentiments that pervade life despite the harder times. Through this deceptive and almost overbearingly positive track, with its darker and more realistic meanings, those life changes are met with a valiant exuberance from frontman Luke Pritchard: “It’s such a fucked up world/ But I’m glad we’re livin’ in it.”
Throughout their career, The Kooks have succeeded in keeping the musical sound that shot them to fame whilst also giving it new relevance and currency for a generation of new listeners. The pop-rock band creatively reflect the feelings and stages of life throughout and the experimental yet playful change-ups, due to the use of digital technology in some tracks, allow you to hear The Kooks like you’ve never heard them before. ‘10 Tracks to Echo in the Dark’ perfectly combines all instalments of the EPs and it’s clear that the band have continued to play on the themes of tension between familiarity and modernity, both through the sound and lyrics, providing us with a finished record full of positive surprises.