Hot off their triumphant debut at Glastonbury, Gabriels has delivered on part one of their highly anticipated debut album. Angels & Queens-Pt 1 was released on September 30th as a seven track starter before the rest of the album is due to come out in March 2023.
The group, made up of Jacob Lusk, Ryan Hope, and Ari Balouzian, first released the Love and Hate in a Different Time EP in late 2020 on Bandcamp. From there, it (and the group) found passionate fans in the likes of Elton John, Talking Heads’ singer David Byrne, and Celeste.
Despite the group’s genesis in Los Angeles, they have received a warm reception in the UK not just with their Glastonbury set, but with an early television appearance on Later with Jools Holland in June 2021.
But for this project, the trio returned to California, teaming up with Kendrick Lamar collaborator Sounwave to co-produce this album with them.
Dealing with themes of grief, loss, and how none of it has to lead to loneliness, this project is described by Lusk as “so personal, that it becomes universal.”
Track 4, ‘If You Only Knew’ was written after the death of Lusk’s godsister following a struggle with addiction. In processing that personal and familial tragedy, anyone who’s gone through a similar struggle with someone they love will be able to recognise parts of their story in his.
The album as a whole feels in conversation with sounds from the past, bringing in modern production to bring new life to the style, building on rather than just recycling from a bygone era.
On tracks ‘Taboo’ and ‘To the Moon and Back’, Lusk brings all the smokiness of Nina Simone with the power of a voice raised in the gospel tradition, as he had. Unique to Lusk’s voice, however, is the power he has to rein it in, not overpower, as heard on the track ‘Mama’.
The dark, smoky vibe hanging over the entire project fits with the lyrical theme of the album, particularly with “Tears come out at night/Pain comes when you cry” in ‘The Blind’. But in the final lines of ‘Mama’— “It’s gonna be alright,” leave us with a glimpse of levity that is perhaps to come.
Back on the road, recently opening for Harry Styles on his Love On Tour stop in Austin, Texas, Gabriels are looking forward to releasing the second half of their debut record, telling BBC “round two is going to be wild”. But for this promising part one, The Guardian’s Alexis Petridis has already labeled it a contender for album of the year.