Album Review: Saskwatch – Manual Override (2017 LP)

Change, for the lack of a better word, is good. And while they may have moved even further away from the soul and horns that made me fall in love with them in the first place, Saskwatch continually prove they know how to make devastatingly beautiful indie-pop. This is no different here on their fourth album, Manual Override.

Returning two years after their last release, Saskwatch have put together eleven tracks that make up what could quite possibly be their best album yet. Having followed the band from their earliest beginnings, it’s become clear that Manual Override is the culmination of the relationships that formed the basis for their previous three albums.

Album opener “December Nights”, with its flute hook and distorted guitar was a pleasant change in direction for the band, as frontwoman Nkechi Anele contemplates the difference between love and loss; it turns out there isn’t that much. The music on “Then There’s You” has a little bit of a Tame Impala vibe to it, as the lyrics discuss the falling apart of two people, with Anele singing that she ‘thought I spoke your language, but you don’t speak it anymore.’

The beautifully rounded and completely fantastic “Renoir” is a stand out on Manual Override, as you’re reminded again about the underplayed strength in Anele’s vocals. Hidden under the floating and seemingly lovely instrumentation is a heartbroken protagonist who just wants to know where it all went wrong. Some dual vocals with Liam McGorry on “North Terrace” is a subtle change for a band that to this point have been pretty much lead solely by Anele.

The piano led “Finger Painting” soars in the chorus once more as you continually notice the piano hook that will be trapped inside your head for days on days. Out comes the tears and heartbreak on “Fortress”, as the orchestral middle of the track takes Manual Override to a level it hadn’t reached just yet.

I don’t know whom these tracks were written about, but they seem like a bit of a jerk to me. The gradual realisation that the album title has a literal meaning to it becomes more and more evident the further the album progresses. It’s clearer that the album is a shout/ cry for attention for someone who doesn’t want to give it. The sentiment will ruin your day at best.

“Shrinking Violet” goes against the figurative connotation of its title, as it becomes the most passive aggressive track on the album. Helping close out the album is “Heaven Seems So Far”. Much like the closing tracks on their second and third albums, “Heaven Seems So Far” is the culminating and fulfilling track of an LP that is laced with ruined dreams, damaged hearts, and broken promises.

The thing about Saskwatch is that, while they’ve effectively removed themselves from the band they were in their beginnings, they continue to evolve and create some of the most relatable music you’ll hear. Whether you’re the one to blame or the one who’s hurting in the relationship, there’s every chance you’ll be able to identify with Manual Override. With emotions overflowing and evocative as ever, Saskwatch have hit their stride.

Review Score: 8 out of 10.

Manual Override
is out now.