Throughout Liars’ seventeen-year existence, there’s been one semi-recurring theme: loyalty. While plenty of the experimental outfit’s songs are violent, paranoid and gleefully depraved, they occasionally bring in a sort of comforting grace, usually to bookend their albums. ‘The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack,’ perhaps their most famous track, closed their magnum opus Drum’s Not Dead with the promise of “I can always be found.” Their raging self-titled follow-up concluded somberly with the elegy to a lost love, 'Protection'. The band’s most introspective album to date, 2012’s WIXIW, opened with Angus Andrew swearing, “I’ll always be your friend/ I’ll never let you down,” over a gentle river of synths. In these moments, Liars aren’t trying to awkwardly counter their aggression with forced sentiment. They’re delivering emotion the Liars way: minimal but utterly impactful.

The loyalty came through not only in the music, but also in the lineup. For the vast majority of their career, Liars has been comprised of Angus Andrew, Aaron Hemphill and Julian Gross. If you’ve followed them for a while, it can be touching to realize how this trio stuck together to craft albums that never retreaded old ground and were always essential, even when not entirely successful, like their noisy witch-themed sophomore effort, They Were Wrong, So We Drowned, which served as a pivotal bridge between their dance-punk origins and the experimental bullseye of Drum’s Not Dead.

While the Liars name lives on, the classic lineup has dissolved, albeit amicably. According to Andrew, Gross left due to back issues preventing him from being able to tour, and while he is still close with Hemphill, their “creative relationship died.” TFCF, the eighth Liars album and first written entirely by Andrew, was recorded in the isolation of the Australian bush. It shows he can successfully guide a Liars album entirely by himself and keep offering surprises even after nearly two decades of using the moniker.

In spite of its eyesore of an album cover, TFCF (Theme From Crying Fountain) is one of the lusher albums in the Liars discography, no doubt helped by the recording process, which also involved Andrew making field recordings of sounds out in the bush. After the pulsating electronic ecstasy of Mess, it was only natural that things would be dialed back some on the next album, no matter what the surrounding circumstances were. The departures of his long-time bandmates surely cast something of a pall over the writing and recording, but the moodiness present here isn’t radically different from that of past releases.

The opening seconds of the album are even similar to the beginning of their 2010 album Sisterworld, both kicking off with a forlorn cry from Andrew. However, while that album's opener ‘Scissor’ morphed into calamity that kept you on the edge of your seat for the rest of the album, ‘The Grand Delusional’ finds Andrew ostensibly talking to himself, addressing his discomfort, both mental and physical, (“You’re uncomfortable, for what it’s worth”) over a tranquil blend of acoustic guitar picking and wilderness sounds, before crossing over to a trip-hop-inspired arrangement. The album’s press release speaks of reinventing “the Liars paradigm,” a cross-pollination of electronic and acoustic sounds. Indeed, the acoustic guitar is more prominent here than any other Liars album, and it truly feels like a muse to Andrew. Drum’s Not Dead told a story of two yin-yang characters, Drum and Mt. Heart Attack, who go on an odyssey of doubt and ultimately, understanding. Here, the guitar acts like a vessel of peace for Andrew’s mindset, or at least something to channel his thoughts through.

It’s not always sentimental strumming. The glistening chords and subsequent synths of ‘Cliche Suite’ sounds like a goof on Royal Entry fanfare. The outstanding 'Emblems of Another Story' sets the mood perfectly, with squawks of birds and a deep bass drone joined by chiming guitar which are is melodic and more sounding like being played out of impulse, akin to a nervous tic in a stressful situation, before the drums kick in and Andrew’s dueling vocal tracks come through as he defiantly declares, “Every time you call/ I’ll take it back.” However, ‘No Help Pamphlet’ is a campfire sing-along and one of the warmest songs in the Liars catalog (i.e. one of the few beside ‘The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack’ that has any chance of appearing on a movie or television soundtrack). It also sounds like one of Guided By Voices’ more subdued numbers, as Andrew sings of “Pieces of things that we can’t figure out/ piles of clothes that we never wear.”

Speaking of Robert Pollard, Liars have more than a couple songs in their discography that are exhilaratingly fun and funny (in a deadpan way). While much of TFCF is serious, Andrew does reassert his daffier side on lead single 'Cred Woes', which puts the arpeggiator on blast as he derides a whale’s song as “happy, hollow, lazy,” and musters up no enthusiasm whatsoever for his “minimum wage routine.” The arguable highpoint of the entire album is the cheerleader chant bridge, where he discusses his fondness for “cola and ice in the employee lounge,” and wish for kids to “follow [his] footsteps ‘stead of foolin’ around.” Due should also be given to ‘No Tree No Branch’, which makes a convincing argument for an all-mambo-themed Liars album.

Where TFCF falters and ends up as just another really good Liars album rather than another top-tier knockout like Drum’s Not Dead or Mess is towards the end. The last three tracks feel like throwaways that don’t flow well at all. ‘Coins In My Caged Fist’ at least has a good drum stomp, but the mellow synth drone of ‘Ripe Ripe Rot’ and Andrew’s vocals feel like a pastiche of past somber Liars tracks. Finally, the mix of hollow percussion, melancholy synth drone and further bird sounds on ‘Crying Fountain’ add up to a conclusion that seems to aim for open-endedness, but is mostly just half-hearted. This phoning-in is concerning, but the other eight tracks are as good and as interesting as ever. When a band sheds most of its members, keeping the name going can often seem like a hollow exercise in monetary pursuit. With TFCF, the Liars name lives on, and Andrew honors it while also forging new paths.