Led by acclaimed singer/songwriter Martin Phillips, the acclaimed Dunedin, New Zealand-based indie act The Chills — currently, Phillips (guitar, vocals) Callum Hampton (bass, backing vocals), Todd Knudson (drums, backing vocals), Erica Sally (guitar, keys, violin, backing vocals) and Oli Wilson (keys, backing vocals) formed back in 1980 and since their formation, they’ve had a long-held reputation for being at the forefront of the Dunedin/jangle pop sound, beloved by many across the world.
The Chills’ forthcoming seventh album Scatterbrain is slated for a May 14, 2021 release through Fire Records. The album is a reportedly a self-examination of Phillips and his own songwriting that comes (somewhat hot) on the heels of their critically applauded and commercially successful sixth album, 2018’s Snow Bound and the critically applauded documentary 2019’s The Chills: The Triumph and Tragedy of Martin Phillips, which received its international premiere at SXSW — and was supported with the band’s first US tour since 1996. Thematically and lyrically, the album’s material finds Phillips, a man who has experienced his fair share of good times, bad times and struggles taking stock of everything.
Written through the perspective of a man, understanding and accepting his age and his own mortality, the album is a mature and sober look at the world centered around catchy melodies, an incisive turn of phrase, razor sharp hooks — and as always those glorious, jangling guitars. “There are hard but important truths in our history,” The Chills’ Martin Phillips says in press notes. “I know that it’s often said that you learn from those lessons or you’ll end up repeating the mistakes. So one should respect and consider the ancient ways. You belittle them at your peril.”
Scatterbrain’s first single “Monolith” sees the legendary Kiwi act retaining the familiar and beloved elements of their sound — the jangling guitars, infectious hooks, shimmering synth arpeggios and Phillips’ imitable vocals; but while possessing a brooding and muscular heft that reminds me a bit of The Church. And although the song clocks in at a breakneck 2:55, the song finds Phillips meditating on time, knowledge and mortality at a cosmic scale, suggesting that the ancients had an understanding of the world and reality that we could (and should) learn from — right now.
The recently released video for “Monolith” was created by Jonny Sanders and features some genuine articles and illustrations from old UFO magazines published the 1970s. “While browsing for Monolith images I came across old UFO magazines from the 1970s. This was a big craze back then and I instantly thought it had a great aesthetic and lent a humorous element to a fairly literal song about ancient stones,” Sanders explains. “The final video contains a mix of genuine articles and ones I’ve made up!”