It’s been shown by previous releases (and critiques on this very site) that No Museums tend to favour brevity in their full-length projects. The Edmonton band’s latest album, The Artifact Is Nothing, is further evidence of this preference, spanning eight tracks in less than twenty minutes. However, as a first-time listener, I can’t help but feel this length choice serves as more than just stylistic continuity; it’s a succinct showcase of eclecticism that proves No Museums can swiftly get to the core of quality songwriting.
Opening track “We Took Out Our Motorbikes” lays out a rush of shoegaze production, its lead vocals lingering behind blaring alt-rock power chords. It’s delightfully all-consuming; the distorted riffs never quite overpower the evocative lyricism. There is something about No Museum’s sonic approach that sounds so familiar yet I can’t quite put my finger on it. That deja vu feeling continuously comes up across the entirety of the record.
“The Mail Train” keeps the powerful instrumentation rolling, but this time it’s paired alongside self-reflective lyrics and somewhat harsh criticism (“I’m nothing but a broken promise, I’m nothing but a worried mind”). Third song “Fangs That Once Were Teeth” presents the first notable instrumental shift. Buoyant tom hits and tremolo-powered guitar melodies carry gentle acoustic strumming before sun-kissed major chord strikes cement it as a great folk-rock tune. Ushering in the second half of The Artifact Is Nothing, “Land Speed Record” is probably the most straightforward tune of them all. It’s the album’s standout earworm that maintains its simplicity through its mid-tempo garage rock tendencies, while still managing to squeeze in No Museum’s go-to fuzzy textures and noisy flourishes of feedback.
The final three pieces transported me through mid-90’s Radiohead, early 2000’s indie rock, and more reference points I had a hard time directly placing. While that may not sound like a resounding compliment, it’s precisely this vague sense of nostalgia that practically forced me into repeated listens, and I was happy to oblige. The Artifact Is Nothing reminds me of a friend that is too humble for their own good. They blatantly posses a host of talents but will be the last ones to ever boast about them. Through an arsenal of tasteful influences, noise experimentation and intriguing, malleable lyrics, The Artifact Is Nothing once again positions No Museums as a deceivingly flexible outfit with a knack for the accessible and consistently inviting.