It’s been four years since the release of the last X Ambassadors record and a lot had changed since the release of that last record. They lost a member; Sam Harris’ lifelong friend Noah Feldshuh left the band due to personal reasons and that was hard on everyone. The band spent pretty much all of 2016 and 2017 on the road. They spent most of 2018 on the road too. Then, the band started working on an album called JOYFUL while on that tour, they hated it when they heard it all together, so they took time away from the road to work on a record. The result is their sophomore label LP ORION and when you consider all the turmoil and everything behind it, it’s amazing that the record is close to being as good as VHS.
There’s a lot going on with X Ambassadors, but the main thing going on is melody. There’s not a big push to make Sam Harris’ vocal the sole push with the music. On songs like “CONFIDENCE”, “BOOM”, “HISTORY”, and “SHADOWS” as examples – Sam’s vocal is certainly prevalent, but it’s not the driving force behind the songs. Sometimes it’s a baseline, sometimes it’s some acoustic guitar, sometimes it’s a harmony. X Ambassadors are doing more musically with this record than they did with VHS and they’re doing it with music hooks, not just vocal ones.
The other thing that’s nice about ORION is while it shows musical growth, there’s also a nice touch with the trio staying consistent with their core sound. There’s a lot of strong elements of gospel and blues on some of these songs. There’s a lot of strong elements of atmosphere on some of these songs, and there’s even some strong elements of acoustic instrumentation with this album. That’s all stuff that X Ambassadors found their footing with on VHS, so it’s nice to hear them not only use that again but expand on it too.
ORION is a strong record from X Ambassadors and should allow them to stay on the road to support it for the next couple of years. There’s plenty of songs here that will become mainstays on the road when they’re doing shows too. Sam Harris, Casey Harris, and Adam Levin continue to showcase their talents for writing art that resonates with people musically and lyrically with ORION, they haven’t lost that touch. This is a great album to listen to and it will be one you’ll want to come back to again and again.