Having previously been hailed by critics as the new The xx, Arthur Beatrice’s latest offering, Keeping The Peace redefines their distinctive sound, and takes it to a whole other planet. Following the release of their 2014 debut, Working Out, Keeping the Peace ups the ante – breathing a level of both emotion and passion not previously seen so extensively by the London-based quartet. Keeping The Peace breaks many boundaries. While indie-rock seems a safe label, if Arthur Beatrice’s sophomore LP is anything to go by, nothing is out of the question. Influences of jazz, folk, and, perhaps, even inklings of electronica, shine bright in Keeping The Peace, layering themselves alongside Ella Girardot’s beautiful, operatic vocals.Keeping The Peace is a new chapter for Arthur Beatrice in many ways. While previously sharing a lead vocal role, guitarist and keyboardist Orlando Leopard seems to have taken a step back on this album – allowing Girardot’s stunning voice to give Keeping The Peace a softer, more feminine edge.

Keeping The Peace doesn’t hesitate to jump in your face from the get-go. The first track, ‘Real Life’, strikes simply because it is the perfect introduction. Girardot’s vocals sound so beautifully raw and perfectly untouched – so much so that it sounds like you are hearing the band live. At first, ‘Real Life’ seems like an edgy pop-ballad – like a forlorn love song. However, what makes this song a real stand out is the mid-track introduction of Arthur Beatrice’s distinctive plucky, indie guitar. It is this combination of the familiar guitars and the unfamiliar sole-vocals that hits the nail on the head.Much like the name suggests, ‘Healing’ is quite literally, what can be best described as an aural cleansing of the soul. Having worked with the London Contemporary Orchestra, ‘Healing’ features an intensely beautiful contrast of haunting strings and Girardot’s chill-down-your-spine, echoed vocals. Such a refined production makes ‘Healing’ feel like it could easily belong on an Agnes Obel record.

While lead single ‘Who Returned’ is abundant with pop–influence, and clear-cut, classic Arthur Beatrice intimacy, it is tracks such as ‘I Left You’, ‘Every Cell’, and  ‘I Don’t Get That Chill’ that show the most progression in the quartet’s discography.  All three tracks sound extremely different; ‘I Don’t Get That Chill’ is very folk-like and melancholy, ‘Every Cell’ is jazz-inspired and features the gospel sounds of Children of Kingdom Choir, and ‘I Left You’ is familiar to Arthur Beatrice style, but incorporates more experimental percussion. However, they all share a common trait; Arthur Beatrice cares little about structure on this album. While each song flows seamlessly into the next, the individual works of art don’t care for distinction: verses and choruses are thrown out the window. Particularly, in ‘Every Cell,’ new layers of sounds are added up until the end – a continual crescendo creating an everlasting virtual soundscape that sounds oh so right.

However, perhaps the most brilliant moment of the album comes in the form of closing track, ‘Brother.’ Fast-paced and forward from the outset, ‘Brother’ begins with a fast-tempo beat and disjointed, choppy vocals – thus giving the illusion that the bass is about to drop in a 1990s garage club hit. Then, the usual Arthur Beatrice comes in – Girardot’s stunning vocals, Coldplay-ish piano, haunting background strings, and that distinctive indie-rock sound. ‘Brother’ sounds like a beautiful, bittersweet melting pot of contrasting emotions – turning repeated lines “I could kill you, brother” into what sounds like a massive jam session. The closing thirty seconds of not just the track, but the entire album is euphoric, yet somewhat heart-wrenching as Girardot’s unintelligible vocals lay against an unpicked production reminiscent of Moby’s 1999 ‘Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?’

However, Arthur Beatrice’s downfall (not that there are many) comes with what feels like “fillers” on the 10-track record. ‘Since We Were Kids’ and ‘All I Ask’ sound overly pop and kind of boring, without any real ‘bang’ or stand out feature. Yet, Keeping The Peace is a carefully curated work of aural art – almost every song is a gorgeous soundscape. Overall, Arthur Beatrice have conquered their comeback – setting the bar high for their future.

Keeping The Peace is out now via Assembly Recordings/Caroline Australia.

8.5/10