All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace, Universal Thee’s sophomore release, is a collection of uplifting tracks that effortlessly blur the lines between pop and rock. The band is made up of Dundee graduates James Russell (guitar & vocals), Lisa Russell (vocals), Robin Spivey (guitar) Andrew Perrie (bass) and the newest addition, Matt Grieve (drums).
The record opens with a handful of easy listening candy rock jams. “Why” kicks the album off, instantly luring the listener into the world of Universal Thee where everyone is dancing and no one is hugging the walls. One of my favorites on the album is “Speaker.” It’s a bouncy power pop track that is absurdly catchy and happens to come with an adorable video where a couple of folks with speaker-shaped heads find each other:
Then comes “Xang”, which for a brief moment sounds like it might be an ode to “Rock Lobster”, but then it goes in a completely different direction. It is definitely one of the more rock-oriented songs on the record but it’s not too heavy, upfront or aggressive. Universal Thee keep things fairly buoyant on this record, and damn it’s nice not to be bogged down with sad stories and melancholic melodies sometimes. The band expresses themselves in a pure, beautiful, beaming way that manifests as some seriously joyful listening.
Honestly, the slowest track on the record is “Sail Away” and it’s no funeral dirge. It makes for the slowest toe-tapping on the album but the record doesn’t lose momentum at this point. They keep the energy going from song 1 to the closing track, “Light On.”
Overall, All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace makes for some excellent sunny, windows down listening.