TIM PERRY has a knack for writing timeless-sounding songs, which recall the uplifting classic pop and rock from the last three decades. The melodic thoroughfares traveled on Ages and Ages' second album, Divisionary, gain instant favor from the listener's ear, boasting a surplus of catchy moments and an uncommon sense of positivity.
Within that optimism, and all those cathartic swells of choir-like sing-alongs, however, is a far less sunny layer of "life stuff," as Perry puts it.
"There was just a lot of death connected to members of the group and the collective of people who have played with us, and various other hardships," says Perry of the time since Ages and Ages' 2011 debut Alright You Restless was released. "That kind of stuff seeps its way into everything. It's a lot to go through." Processing that adversity dovetailed with the thematic direction that Perry's lyrics were already headed after Alright You Restless.
Their first album was a musical allegory of sorts, which outlined the optimism of the band's formative months spent holed up in a rehearsal space, living inside their own bubble of creativity. The result was an invigorating, communal sound that emphasized energy and self-awareness, highlighted by intricate layers of guitar, piano, bass, handclaps, percussion, and a big-time vocal presence.
"We wanted to establish a new beginning with hope and optimism, having learned what we've learned, that things are going to get better," says Perry. "But we also knew that, ultimately, reality sets in and that struggle is necessary and inevitable. I guess that's where the second record comes in. We're still maintaining that level of hope and still feeling optimistic, but the struggles are becoming real, and so too is the need to somehow work with it, or fix it, or live with it. So I think Divisionary is a little darker, honestly. Even though I feel like it's an optimistic album, it's definitely observing the struggle."
The album begins with the anthemic "Light Goes Out," a two-part opus that starts with a clap-along a cappella by Perry, followed by punchy blasts of guitar and the choral stylings of Ages and Ages' robust lineup (percussionist Sarah Riddle, bassist Rob Oberdorfer, keyboardist Becca Schultz, drummer Levi Cecil, guitarist Annie Bethancourt, guitarist John McDonald, and percussionist Jade Brings Plenty).
Prior to knuckling down on Divisionary, Perry attended a 10-day Vipassana silent meditation retreat, and the album's opener speaks—pardon the pun—to his experience there. It was an event that profoundly influenced his life, he says, and also the scope of the new album.
"It was definitely a pretty big step for me in truly isolating myself and having absolutely zero communication," says Perry. "There was no talking, there was no eye contact; it was just being completely alone even though there were other people. No reading or writing. I wasn't allowed to write songs, although there were songs written during that time in my head that I had to just repeat over and over so I wouldn't forget them, lyrics and everything. Or at least parts, and a lot of that is on the record, for better or worse."