[Content note: depression, anxiety, language]
Amorphous is a word meaning “shapeless, having no definite form.” It’s a word that describes hazy in-betweens, liminal space tenuously joining who we were to who we hope to be. That concept perfectly sums up Icon For Hire’s second independently released album Amorphous.
Icon For Hire (helmed by the duo Ariel and Shawn) took their time on this album, with nearly five years spanning the gap since 2016’s You Can’t Kill Us. That care and attention to detail is evident from the opening interlude (the first of three interludes that stitch together the tracklist). “Brittle” introduces us to the Amorphous era with one of the strongest songs of Icon For Hire’s career, an explosive blend of rhythmic vocals, electronic textures, and anchoring guitar riffs. The lyrics explore mental health, addiction, and recovery with the searing self-revelatory honesty that is Ariel’s trademark. The bridge is a call to courage:
“Keep breathing, don’t lose focus
You’re alive, you’re not a diagnosis
Keep breathing, don’t lose focus
I’m not a diagnosis.“
The rest of the album weaves between that fragility and determined statements of identity. Searing banger “Seeds” and bold “Last One Standing” both plant a flag firmly in the strength forged through the places we’ve been broken. Cheeky “Sticks and Stones” is a clapback, checking the manipulation of those who try to use women and tear them down. “Waste My Hate” offers a similar confident call-out, a heart pounding riff playing as the lyrics vow “I’m not gonna waste my hate on you.”
The darker side of Amorphous harkens back to Icon For Hire’s earlier work, with eerie melodies, a touch of grunge distorting the guitars, and lyrics exploring the backroads of our neural pathways. Those themes have reached a new level of maturity on this album, resulting in the songs tackling mental health struggles with a new level of striking specificity. Lead single “Curse or Cure” is one of the album’s heaviest songs, both musically and thematically, singing from an anguished place of self-doubt. “Enemies” expands on that, throbbing darkly through the confession “I make friends with all my demons, they depend on me to feed them.”
“Panic Attacks” leans on Ariel’s rapping skills, feeding the frenetic energy that mirrors the experience of anxiety and panic. The album’s lone true piano ballad, “Background Sad,” is introduced by the blurry interlude “Thirteen.” Together, the pair of tracks paint a picture of the way depression and loneliness can evolve through adolescence and into adulthood, moving past the swinging highs and lows and into a slow, steady ache of life lived half alive.
“Am I always gonna just be, just be
Background sad, background sad
Waiting for the storm clouds to clear in my head
Background sad, background sad
Wondering if this is as good as it gets.”
The album’s themes are clarified by the empowering “Warrior” and closing track “Only Be A Story.” “Warrior” is a thudding, gritty, joyous anthem for remembering that maybe our hopes are truer than our fears. “Only Be A Story” reintroduces the piano that has always been at Icon For Hire’s emotional core, offering a last word that feels definitive for the band, and maybe for all of us listening as well:
“When I go
I already know
My life will only be a story
All that I’ve been
All that I’ve built
All fades away inside a moment
And the pain won’t matter
The power won’t matter
The shame burns with the glory
When I’m gone
My life will only bе a story.”
Amorphous is an experience built on soaring melodies, powerful beats, clever lyrics, and a welcome return to a soundscape shimmering through electronic beds while staying rooted in guitars. Icon For Hire portrays a world where our wounds do not lie in opposition to our strength, suggesting that maybe the two are inextricably linked. Maybe in all the unformed, amorphous moments of our lives, there is grace for all the conflicting truths about ourselves to coexist.
Get Amorphous on Apple Music and Spotify.