This album is the solo project of one Rishi Arora (of Signal Hill fame). It’s always interesting to see a different side of musicians you are very familiar with. Signal Hill and Beware of Safety have shared a rehearsal space and played shows together for some time now, so I thought that I had a solid idea as to what was coming from this album. But, in the spirit of many great side projects, Rishi presents not only the things that make Signal Hill great, but also fresh ideas from his own musical experiences.
This Year I Will Forget represents a collection of songs dating back to 2004. Rishi was studying at USC and traveling during these years (as was I). I can picture vividly the dorm rooms, run down south central apartment buildings, and foreign streets where this album was born. There is an oppression here that permeates through the cracks in the concrete at Hoover and Jefferson under sodium lights around 2 am. I’ve felt these same feelings.
I think Rishi went through some of the same challenges in getting out his solo record that I did on One Night Closer to the End: both seem to represent an extended period of our lives. It was interesting listening to this while trying to wrap up my album, and to see how he presented the individual songs and their histories on his website (top notch design and execution here).
The songs are very well done, though I’ll admit it’s always a little weird to hear someone from an instrumental rock band sing. Rishi’s voice has a very Gibbard-esq quality to it, which I enjoyed a lot. Miles Davis was a sweet love song. The upright bass added a great touch, and I really liked the Rhodes at the end of the track. Penzance reminded me strongly of Signal Hill’s work, with a more electronic feel. The vocal sample used added a lot to the overall vibe. By far the standout track here was Feliz Natal. With a chorus that was stuck in my head for days and a dark and oppressive guitar line, it’s full of the tension and desperation that flows through Rishi’s guitar. This album is well worth checking out.