Cold Beat’s debut album, Over Me, was one of my favorites of last year, and the Hannah Lew project wasted no time following it up with Into the Air, which improves on the first by expanding and refining the group’s sound. While Over Me sometimes felt repetitive, every song on Into the Air feels different from the next, and the album tells a cohesive story as it progresses and the sounds change.
I get really geeky about album sequencing sometimes, and I got especially into the sequencing on Into the Air. The early songs on the album are more in line with what I expected after Over Me, with relatively straight-forward new-wave rock like “Broken Lines.” But about halfway through, the music starts to change, starting with “Cracks” which adds synths to the mix, and then the electronic instrumental “Clouds” that segues into the final part of the album, where “Spirals” and “Ashes” continue down that electronic path.
The way the album is sequenced, there is a feeling of ascending “Into the Air,” among the “Clouds,” and ending up in the ominously pretty blue sky portrayed on the album cover. This is reinforced by lyrical motifs about ashes and dust, like a wind is blowing you away into the sky. While ascending into the sky is typically considered positive, like going to heaven, on Into the Air the technology has an icy, creepy vibe to it that makes it more like OK Computer. “Cracks” in particular feels frantic and paranoid, and it’s the track that starts the upward ascension of the rest of the album.
I don’t know if the band intended any of what I just wrote, but part of what makes Into the Air so replayable — beyond the quality songwriting — is that Lew’s lyrics lend themselves to interpretation and don’t have a specific, obvious meaning. Yet there is still a story being told on the album, a sense that all the tracks are tied together and going down the same path. Where exactly that path goes is up to the listener to decide.