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Album Review: Picture Atlantic ‘Digital Tension’

In Music
Album Artwork by Michael Chamberjian

Album Artwork by Michael Chamberjian

Picture Atlantic’s second full-length album, Digital Tension, marks a huge stylistic shift for the San Jose-based band.

Starting with the band’s debut EP Change is Welcome in 2006, a six-song collection of alternative pop songs, Picture Atlantic has grown and matured through lineup changes. Today, the band features Nikolaus Bartunek on vocals, Ryan Blair on bass, Brian Graves on keys and new drummer Daniel Hernandez Martinez.

Digital Tension is playfully self-described as “witpop,” but many of the songs on the album feature a darker sound than the band’s previous releases. You can feel the weight of the digital age with the band as it moves forward in an uncertain future . “Halogen Nights,” the fourth track, sets the tone of this weight as people today “fall for the panic as the news heads shout and blare of an old Iron Curtain and a terrorism scare”.

The overall album sound is completely unique in comparison to Picture Atlantic’s past work. It’s covered with synths—present before but with less dominance—and heavy-laden bass solos followed abruptly by bursts of noise rock. This is most apparent on tracks like “Twist” and “Oathbreaker.”

“White Knight” features a haunting but memorable bass line while Bartunek tries to find balance between the admiration of the “white knight” but also not disregarding one’s “black night deeds.”

Bartunek, especially in the middle of tracks “Don’t Be Cheap” and “5:50 Hurts,” hits the high notes with control, a signature to each of Picture Atlantic’s releases.

Digital Tension is out now on Bandcamp . The CD Release Party is at Bottom of the Hill July 14, with Cold Eskimo, Dogcatcher, and Please Do Not Fight.

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