Album Review | #5 – Thomas Isbister
Written by Sam Dunlay on 28 May 2021
Every now and then, an absolute gem of an album appears when you’re least expecting it, popping up out of nowhere to wriggle into your earhole and make itself comfortable. For me, this latest gem is ‘#5’, by local Ōtautahi musician Thomas Isbister.
‘#5’ is the fifth album from Isbister in the span of two years and builds nicely on his previous work. Packed full of charm and personality the album is a vibrant and dynamic collection of ten songs loosely defined as indie-rock.
Isbister is an enigma in the local music scene. What appears to be a low profile is mirrored by five largely self-produced albums. The scale of this work is nothing short of spectacular, and perusing his catalogue it seems the quality hasn’t been sacrificed.
Focusing on the album at hand, there is a lot to be impressed by. The ten tracks showcase Isbister’s versatility as an artist, and all offer something unique to the listening experience. There is plenty of diversity in vocal performance, instrumentation and production elements on ‘#5’. Isbister seems to take immense pleasure in offering us a delicious smorgasbord of his musical capabilities, and I personally can’t stop feasting.
Although there is immense variety across the album, Isbister does a fantastic job of threading a narrative as the songs seamlessly ebb and flow into each other.
The first three tracks on ‘#5’ encapsulate this idea perfectly. Opening the album is ‘We See In’, which gives off some classic 90’s punk-rock vibes. Screeching guitars and a steady bass groove combine to create one of the standout tracks of the album. This then leads into the softer ‘Eggs’. The verses are stripped-back and exceptionally catchy, before launching into a crooning melodic hook. We are then treated to the fast-moving ‘Giant’s Feet’, where Isbister places punk-inspired vocals on top of energetic instrumentation.
This is one of the most exhilarating starts to an album I’ve experienced in a while, and the rest of the project follows this lead brilliantly.
‘#5’ sees Isbister use his incredible musical skills to craft an album that refuses to be placed in a box. There is something for everyone to enjoy on ‘#5’, and Isbister makes no sacrifices in quality when exploring different styles and ideas.
You can check out ‘#5’ below.