Recording information: Red Razor Studios, Los Angeles, CA; Sound Factory, Los Angeles, CA; The Exit Room, London.
It sometimes seems as if England's the Boxer Rebellion sets out with the same admirably ambitious goal every time they make an album: they clearly want to make the grandest, most sweeping and emotionally engaging collection of songs they can muster. 2011's The Cold Still was one of their finest moments, and it seemed difficult to imagine the band topping it. With 2013's Promises, the Boxer Rebellion have once again delivered a set of yearning rock anthems, full of searing romanticism and brooding atmosphere, and the release ranks as one of their best. Working with producer Billy Bush, the band let go of their longstanding love of organic analog recording in favor of a more adventurous, sonically crisp sound. The result is that Promises has a vibrant, wide-angle lens perfectly suited to the band's buoyant lyricism and guitar rock uplift. Tracks like the lead-off "Diamonds" and the sparkling "Keep on Moving" frame lead singer Nathan Nicholson's gentle yet impassioned vocals with driving drum beats and layers of delayed and processed guitars that build slowly to each song's emotional climax. Elsewhere, cuts like "Always" and "Take Me Back" mix percussive, electronic, dance-influenced beats with '80s new wave-influenced melodies. These are songs that have a cinematic quality, each one feeling eerily as if you've heard it in a film. This immediate, imagistic quality means that the songs stick with you long after you've heard them, and as the title implies, with Promises, the Boxer Rebellion never let you down. ~ Matt Collar