After months of anticipation, the wait is finally over for Above & Beyond fans: the trio’s third studio album, We Are All We Need, is here. After two highly lauded LPs–2006’s Tri State and 2011’s Group Therapy–their latest effort certainly has a lot to live up to. So, is it a case of three times lucky, or is the magic starting to fade?
As with most albums, we’ve certainly been well briefed in the months leading up to the release thanks to a series of singles. Five of the album’s 16 tracks have already been unleashed in full, from the film score-esque prog trance of Hello, through to the anthemic All Over The World. Both tracks carry strong influence from Above & Beyond’s older work, with All Over The World in particular having more than a passing resemblance to their 2001 classic Razorfish–released under the now-retired Tranquillity Base alias.
Other singles have divided fans, notably Blue Sky Action which has become something of a “love it or hate it” release, a rarity for the trio. Sticky Fingers has grown into another singalong anthem at live shows, and title track We’re All We Need has quickly gained status as a firm favourite for many, because whether you’re a fan or not, you can’t fault the sublime talents of Zoë Johnston.
As with the group’s previous two full-length efforts, We Are All We Need features a plethora of collaborations with different vocalists. The most notable change is the removal of long-term collaborator Richard Bedford as the trio’s “male singer” in favor of Alex Vargas. While it’s hard to say whether that’s a good or a bad thing, his voice is remarkably similar to Bedford’s. Vargas certainly has a stunning vocal talent, although at times it feels more suited to the jazz stylings of some of the tracks from their Acoustic shows where Vargas made his debut.
There’s also a notable non-vocal credit to Victoria Horn for her work on Counting Down The Days, and no review of We Are All We Need could pass without a mention of Justine Suissa’s performance in Little Something–it’s essentially a sneaky inclusion of an OceanLab track, a very welcome one at that, with a tear-jerking chorus that is a perfect example of what Above & Beyond do best. Speaking of vocalists, I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight A&B member Tony, who returns to the mic to provide the vocals for Excuses.
As also hinted at in the included “making of” video, there’s a strong influence on the album from Andrew Bayer. While he only has official credit on two tracks–Sticky Fingers and the excellent Out Of Time, which is something of a throwback to Andrew’s Signalrunners days–his touch is felt across several songs and it’s clear that he’s verging on “forth member” status at times. While his studio talent can’t be faulted, if his style isn’t your cup of tea you might get a bit tired of his presence.
With two massive albums already under their belt, it must have been a nervous few months for Above & Beyond. They have a reputation as perfectionists, but once again they can breathe a sigh of relief as their hard work certainly seems to have paid off. It’s still early days of course, but We Are All We Need has the potential to stand up alongside their previous work while launching them into the next stage of their career.
We Are All We Need is available now, and you can catch the full “making of” video below.