Fastened to influences and more human conditions of the time, White Lies began writing their sixth album, navigating the predicaments of a global pandemic and its effects and the experimental slope they allowed to flesh out on As I Try Not To Fall Apart.
“It’s kind of an album of two hearts,” says singer Harry McVeigh. “Some songs were impacted by everything that was happening in 2020, which made the album two-pronged. “There’s a lot of songs on the record that have been influenced by the pandemic, but it’s a record of two parts,” says McVeigh. “There’s so many different styles and different kinds of directions represented on the album in each song. Maybe that’s something that we’ve done in the past, but I think this is the most extreme version of it. To me, the songs sound so different from each other.”
A follow up to their self-produced album, Five, in 2019, As I Try Not Yo Fall Apart was recorded with long-time collaborator Ed Buller, who worked with White Lies—McVeigh, along with bassist Charles Cave and drummer Jack Lawrence-Brown—on several albums including their 2009 debut To Lose My Life… and Claudius Mittendorfer (Weezer, Panic! At The Disco) in West London.
An assemblage of the band’s proclivity for futuristic, humanistic storylines and retro synth-pop, As I Try Not to Fall Apart summons White Lies’ lyrical territory of existence and death with some unexpected sonic twists. Caught somewhere between David Bowie’s Station to Station and the Danny Huston character of Ivan Beckman in the 2000 drama Ivans Xtc, opener “Am I Really Going to Die,” the first song of a two-part narrative of someone coming to terms with a terminal diagnosis, ends lighter than its gloomier start—all alone here on the internet / looking for cures that aren’t invented yet… This isn’t my time to die / I’m never really going to die.
Encapsulating the entire motion of the album, and the synthesized finesse White Lies have consecrated over the past decade, the title track is most demonstrative of the album, and started with a melody the band wanted to sound more hymnal. “It’s about accepting vulnerability as a man, and knowing it’s ok to be broken,” shares McVeigh, who says the song was written fairly quickly one evening.”There’s never been a more pressing time to spread the message that it’s ok to not be ok.”
The song follows trying not to fall apart in the face of adversity, and depression. “I think that that’s so typical of a lot of our songs,” says McVeigh. “We celebrate and relish that wallowing in darkness and feeling miserable. That’s kind of the story of a lot of White Lies music.”
“As I Try Not To Fall Apart” was also a song that was most appropriate for the times. “You had to try not to fall apart during the pandemic,” says McVeigh. “Your reason for being was taken away for so long, and you had nothing to replace it. When you’re at that kind of loose end, you can have some pretty dark moments, and you’ve got so much time to think about it while nothing distracts you.”
Reiterating the fears of change in refrain spinning with this lonely world, “Breathe” maneuvers through outside noise and managing mental states in We can muzzle your emotion and sort you out / An urgent new devotion, yes, the time is now / Stop avoiding mirrors, you can still be fixed / The illusion of forgiveness is a party trick, through the deterioration of mankind on the symphonic “I Don’t Want to Go to Mars.” The heaviness of “Roll December” lends a tectonic shift to As I Try Not to Fall Apart, running nearly seven minutes, and elevating the more prog-rock peripheral of the album heard on celestial synth pings of swelling “Blue Drift.”