17. Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid

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The mass outpouring of pleasure that greeted Elbow’s Mercury Music Prize triumph with this album said it all. Plenty of us had loved them for ages but they’d never quite taken off. A Glasto performance as the sun set, a radio-friendly colossus entitled ‘One Day Like This’ and then this helpful sales boost did a fine job of ensuring that Elbow were one of the great success stories of 2008. The only quibble I can have is why it didn’t happen sooner. This album just has the nudge on ‘Asleep In The Back’, their beautiful debut and No.23 in this very list, and their third album, ‘Leaders Of The Free World’, was very unlucky to just miss out on a place in the 40 also. That said, ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’ was the album where their musical ambition went up a few gears and suddenly they sounded unbeatable.

17 Elbow

One Day Like This’ is revered by many, and rightly so, but there are many similarly well arranged tracks that are at least its equal on this charming record. Album opener ‘Starlings’ is a lesson in the correct deployment of restraint, while ‘Weather To Fly’ is multi-layered work of genius. Richard Hawley’s appearance on ‘The Fix’ makes for a gem of a track, although one that seems slightly at odds with the rest of the songs. ‘Grounds For Divorce’ was yet another classic Elbow ‘big’ single while ‘An Audience With The Pope’ took on ‘The Loneliness Of A Tower Crane Driver’ for the label of ‘Longest Title Of A Beautiful Song On The Album’ and just lost out.

However, what makes this album truly special to me is a moment that last for all of thirty seconds during ‘Friends Of Ours’, the most direct tribute to the ‘Seldom Seen Kid’ in the album’s title, the band’s friend Bryan Glancy who died in 2006. Around the three minute mark, as the tear-inducingly raw refrain ‘love you mate’ is repeated, a sparse but cascading piano line comes in and it makes you realise why you love music so much. It’s one of those moments that you could hear over and over forever, each listen demonstrating how sometimes music can capture things that words simply cannot.

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