Not so rotten

Puzzle releases new album “The Rotten Opera”

Malaki Lingg, Assistant Web Editor

Illustration by Grace Robinson, Photo by Riley Carroll (Riley Carroll)

Rating: 3.75 stars

Fletcher Shears has been incredibly busy over the past few months. Shears released a new album with his twin Wyatt and toured across North America as The Garden, and now has finally released a new album under his solo project, Puzzle. “The Rotten Opera” was released on Jan. 7, 2023. 

“The Rotten Opera” is Puzzle’s first full-length album since the 2019 release of “X Hail” and definitely marks a turning point in the artist’s sound. While Shears is no stranger to darker and heavier songs — especially when you consider his work as The Garden — “The Rotten Opera” is his first LP as Puzzle to maintain that aesthetic throughout the entire runtime. This project further consolidates Puzzle’s movement away from the somewhat light alt-indie roots that the 2020 EP “Places We Choose Not to Look” set forth. 

Tracks such as “love is a place to hide” and “Taller than a Smokestack” are perfect examples of the somber and mellow tone that Shears is trying to project. The piano, synth, mixing and abstract lyricism in these tracks develop the project into something special. While some may dislike the somewhat DIY and somewhat informal approach Shears took when producing the album, it aids in establishing that unique and personal sound that Puzzle has been known for.

While “The Rotten Opera” is a lyrically complex album with varying sounds and samples, it somewhat lacks the charm that earlier projects seemed to have. While that is not necessarily a bad thing, as it follows the natural progression that Shears’ taste has led to, it leaves fans wanting more from the project. Overall, “The Rotten Opera” is a good listen, but it does not beat Puzzle’s earlier works. 

“The Rotten Opera” is now streaming on services such as Spotify, YouTube Music and Apple Music as of Jan. 7, 2023.