2020 has been a good year for indie powerhouses, and for some of the season’s most alluring sonic sounds, I’d point you to none other than Whiskerman’s Kingdom Illusion. In Kingdom Illusion, these alternative vets break off some of their most experimental jams yet in songs like “The Great Unknown,” “Be Real” and the record’s title cut, and while trying to predict what’s about to come out barreling out of the speakers in this tracklist next is almost impossible when sitting down for an uninterrupted listening session, there’s no doubt that audiences can count on being captivated here from start to finish.
Whiskerman’s fourth official studio album has all the trappings of a rock opera minus the excessively operatic elements that often separate the more inaccessible progressive rock efforts from serious works capable of winning over any listener that loves provocative songwriting. “Rattlesnake,” the opening track, segues into “Belly of the Beast” without skipping a beat, and while efficient rockers like “Fuck Yeah” incorporate punkier components typically left on the sidelines in efforts like this one, none of the material on this LP sounds out of place or too experimental to have been included here.
I love the presence that the strings have in “Something About Love,” “Villains” and “The Great Unknown,” and while there’s a lot more to enjoy in Kingdom Illusion than guitar theatrics exclusively, I think they define the mood of the music in these songs even more than the lyrics they’re accompanied by do. From a poetic standpoint, this is an enigmatically dreamlike rock record, but because of the cutting quality of instrumentation, I don’t see why both audiophiles and occasional indie rock fans wouldn’t take to the complexities of Whiskerman’s work in this release with an equal amount of enthusiasm.
Though their 2011 self-titled album came close to matching the postmodern vibes found here, there’s a case to be made that this LP is the most surreally produced sound that this band has delivered in their career together thus far. “Fuck Yeah” and “Belly of the Beast,” Kingdom Illusion’s two star singles, both sport streamlined mixing that will make them killer additions to any radio playlist this season, but while they were clearly constructed as to appease both commercial and creative interests simultaneously, I don’t feel like any of the content on this LP was designed specifically to sellout the DIY ethic that gave Whiskerman their start.
If you’ve never heard their work prior to now, I think that Kingdom Illusion is an excellent way of introducing yourself to the music of Whiskerman, and moreover, the new wave of alternative rock that they’re helping to champion in the underground. If you follow the indie beat, you’re already aware of the emergent diversity of the collective soundtrack 2020 is producing right now, and if you’re trying to access some of the smartest sounds on the rock side of the spectrum, this is undeniably the one band that I’d personally recommend checking out before any other this April.