Reviews of Armchair Insomniacs II

Nikki Adams

The opening song and first single, Revolution, to Armchair Insomniacs second eponymously titled album, holds no boundaries with its powerful intro to a fine second album. 

Track two and second single Blue Sky then cuts to a steady and dreamy contrast with an almost Cure like mournful guitar.  Chris Balm’s voice then lifts to accompany a delicate synth line. Maybe unintended but a nod to an eighties electronic new wave sound is heard here. 

Next Week Girl with its David Grey sounding vocal, strummy guitar, light piano accompaniment and welcome trombone adds to layers of this great radio friendly pop song. 

This is an album that takes turns in unexpected directions, in a good way. The surprising 70's Beatles sound in Making Circles with its mix of spoken word and circus sound effects. A curved ball that sits comfortably amongst the more alternative pop songs on the album. 

The band are Chris Balm (vocals, acoustic guitars, EWI wind instrument), Louis Bernstone (keyboards, vocals and additional guitars), and Jonny Webster (guitars and bass).  They describe the band as eclectic… choosing whichever style fits the song. 

Side 2 (if you are listening on vinyl which is always a better experience) starts off with an atmospheric intro for another great song Apnaapun. Its hypnotic chants and beats, that without the grungy guitar that kicks in halfway through, would remind you of an Enigma song. Chris's bright vocal nicely breaks through the steady lull and hook of the rhythm section. 

Overall, this is an album of great song writing and story telling that has you intrigued on first listen and then closely involved by the second. Not to be underestimated. 

March 2023

Reviews of Armchair Insomniacs

NZ Musician 

If your only exposure to Auckland band Armchair Insomniacs has been the well-received Wide Awake In Wonderland featuring local rapper Leva, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the band’s primary modus operandi was one of hard-hitting socially conscious hip hop.

That tune – and its supporting video – has been widely shared on social media platforms in recent months. As good as it undoubtedly is, the theatrical rap isn’t representative of the band, or indeed the rest of the material found on this eclectic self-titled debut album. 

If anything, Armchair Insomniacs appeal more as an unlikely post-millennium throwback to the delights and glory days of the ‘70s yacht rock era. A feeling immediately heightened by the immaculate production wizardry on offer right across the album’s nine-track, 40-minute duration. 

Something that results in a smooth space rock vibe, with the most obvious local reference point from that bygone era being a band like Golden Harvest, say. All achieved with the fixtures and fittings of modern-day technology, which naturally helps to give the music a next level sheen well beyond anything that was even possible back then. 

Recorded at Auckland’s Ellamy Studios, the ‘band’ is evidently a musical outlet for studio owner Louis Bernstone, alongside Wellingtonian Chris Balm. Opening track Frequency was the first to be unveiled, presented with a very classy lyric video back in June 2017. 

Conversation, which follows, sounds like a perfect single for The Breeze and radio really ought to take a good look down the back of this couch. Closer Big Country Dream is a 5 min-plus opus complete with extensive ‘freedom from the machine’ speech soundbite. 

While hardly Jeff Wayne-like in orchestral grandeur, it nonetheless has a sense of War Of The Worlds about it, dropping away to a delicate piano outro. 

It’s a little bit like getting the best of both worlds; the past duly excavated, before being dressed up and presented with a very contemporary spin. 

Throw in a little bit of prog, a few guitar solos, bountiful hooks, and song titles like Sun, Free Love, and Stoned – the latter being a Massive Attack territory highlight – and it becomes almost impossible to argue that Armchair Insomniacs are anything other than staunch students of pop music history with serious talent to burn, man.