Sounds: The New Tarot // Book of Promises

The New Tarot Reveal Debut Album Book of Promises and Blow Everybody’s Minds

I’ll be honest: when I read the press details for Book of Promises, I didn’t know what to expect.  Sci-fi rock opera? What?? 

But to be even more honest? I was blown away.

A genre-blending, mind-melding mix of everything from ambient soundscapes to hints of indie-folk influences, heavy rock sounds, and a silky Arabic groove layered beneath “The Skinny,” Book of Promises is the kind of release that music journalists — and fans — long for: varied enough to offer everyone something to love, but tied together by the Walker sisters’ lilting vocals. 

“We were just writing music, and I had this dream where I was in a giant room with these gods and old mythic beings,” Monika told Billboard for the album’s exclusive premiere. “The dream also included John Dee, a 16th century English scientist, occultist, and advisor to Queen Elizabeth. He approached me and was telling me my album was going to be about his life, but in our modern world.” 

Monika and Karen Walker, the sister-duo at the helm of The New Tarot, proceeded to write the album, which coalesced into the overarching story of a young man who believes he has summoned an angel, while applying some of John Dee’s philosophies to the current political and social climate. “Trump had not even announced his (candidacy) when this story came about. The songs just came to life and started telling us something that felt very urgent,” Monika went on to say.

“Kingdom,” the opening track, lures listeners in with ethereal, choral vocals, fuzzy synth, and winding harmonies before launching into “Angel.” “The Skinny” follows, the vocals entrancing and the slow, Arabic-inspired groove threatening to wrap listeners in the sisters’ spell. A heady mix of their greatest inspirations — David Bowie, Regina Spektor, and The Flaming Lists — the sisters’ use of synth-pop and blazing alternative rock launches them from the overwhelming noise and into the spotlight. 

“Alaska” might be my favorite track from the record, though “The Heat” is a close second; the rock grit and R&B-flavored accusations sung in rapid-fire fashion at Monsanto, the Newtown massacre, and Lady Liberty’s vernacular on the latter are a far cry from the dark, swirling folk-rock-meets-synth-pop sound heard on the former, but I love the subdued vocals and impassioned delivery on “Alaska”: “Wanna know the truth? / I don’t believe in anything / I just need to find your way / I just want to disobey.” 

“America” rounds out the ten song epic, an acoustic-driven track with a heavy folk influence. “Didn’t know the Promised Land was promised to them / America,” the sisters sing, the melody almost laid-back and happy-go-lucky, keeping my head bobbing as Monika and Karen declare that they just can’t take anymore. “America / Land of the meek and tired / I want to sail away to a distant shore / But no matter where I go, yeah, you’ve been here before / Oh, America, you’re such a beautiful whore, America.” 

As bold as they are talented, The New Tarot holds no punches as they take on society through song, invoking themes of injustice, outrage, and, yes, hope. Even — and maybe especially —hope. “A lot of our fears about the future are in the album,” Monika said, “but a lot of our hope is, too.”

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