BEST OF 2015: 2. Low ‘Ones And Sixes’

Some bands possess alchemical elements that ensure that their music is distinctive and compelling. The Smiths had Marr’s peerless guitar work, The National have Bryan Devendorf’s otherworldly drumming and Low truly take off when the voices of Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker combine. Twenty-one years after their first, the Minnesotan trio have crafted an eleventh album that employs new textures around those magnificent vocals and deviates from a path upon which they seemed to have settled. My album of 2011, ‘C’Mon’, is a beautiful, at times luscious, record and the clarity of 2013’s rather subdued ‘The Invisible Way’ suggested that the scuzzy, unsettling sounds to which they had gravitated in the mid-Noughties were consigned to the past.

Low

Ones And Sixes’ is sequenced so as to ensure such assumptions are quickly shattered. Sparkhawk has spoken recently of his restless desire not to plough the same furrow too consistently and, while it might make a neat quip to describe this as their last record channelled through the noise of 2007’s ‘The Great Destroyer’, there’s rather more to it than that.

The subterranean bass that drives ironically titled opener ‘Gentle’ is so ferocious that it partially obscures Parker and Sparhawk at various points. The weary march of the distorted drums sets the tone for what lies ahead, flagging up the chaos out of beauty motif that runs throughout ‘Ones And Sixes’. Many of these songs may well have worked with the gentle Jeff Tweedy production of their last outing, but here, with B.J. Burton at the controls, they are pushed, pulled and mangled out of shape to devastating effect. Early teaser ‘No Comprende’, with an insistent jagged riff initially setting the brooding pace, is torn apart at the three minute mark, Parker’s vocals eventually offering some balm after moments of turmoil.

Despite the shift, the textures are far less ugly than their previous noisier endeavours, with the harmonies and melodic uplifts of recent work still very much in play. ‘Spanish Translation’ starts like the synth breakdown in a house track before the band’s vintage wall of sound heft thunders in on the chorus. The electronic pulse of ‘Into You’ sets up a multi-tracked Parker vocal on one of a number of songs which seem to tackle the highs and lows of the intimacy necessitated by twenty-two years bound together by band and marriage. The finest of these is ‘What Part Of Me’, on which vocal duties are shared to predictably beautiful effect around a naggingly catchy chorus.

The album’s most notable moments come in its final quarter. ‘Landslide’, clocking in at almost ten minutes, is a shape-shifting epic which brings to mind some of the most mesmeric mantras from Spiritualized’s career, torn asunder by some ferocious guitar work by Sparhawk. It’s breathtakingly ‘big’, especially in contrast to the studied calm of ‘The Invisible Way’. Despite this grandiose landmark, the true treasure comes just before it. ‘Lies’, occupying a far more modest four minutes of the record, is another of the duets, although Sparhawk sits far further forward in the mix. Its true beauty, however, comes from the ascending synth line which peppers the chorus. It’s a trick that Low have never deployed previously and it is, however implausibly, as emotively powerful as the vocals behind which it resides.

There will be those who favour the delicately rounded corners of the band’s recent work ahead of the scuffed up layers present on ‘Ones And Sixes’, but don’t be fooled by any early disorientation. The band’s strengths are here in abundance, but they are reimagined, twisted into new shapes and given a visceral intensity that is utterly irresistible.

Advertisements

BEST OF 2013: 10. Low – The Invisible Way

There are few voices at large in music today as striking, pure and transcendant as that of Low‘s Mimi Parker. Witnessing her singing live is a total surrender: like an act of hypnosis, the performance is so utterly absorbing nothing else exists. In an age of incessant talking at gigs, Low still find themselves playing to hushed reverence. The remarkable control coupled to a voice with such power is a joy to behold on every single listen, and on ‘The Invisible Way’ it is a more regular occurrence than ever before. Parker takes lead on five of these beautiful songs and, while Alan Sparhawk is hardly restricted by concrete tonsils, it’s perhaps the main reason to celebrate Low’s tenth studio release.

The fact the band have such a distinctive sound, largely as a result of those two captivating voices, can mean they get taken for granted a little. ‘The Invisible Way’ promos were sent out  a little over a year ago and by this stage in the run up to last Christmas, I was just getting to know its many charms. And then some bastard leaked it. As the big day dawned, the music of a band hardly rolling in cash was being eagerly downloaded for free across the world. This is hardly new behaviour, but what was really grim viewing was the explosion of ‘me me me’ posts across message boards and Twitter as people rushed to be the first to offer an ill-informed and largely foetal opinion of this subtly textured record. Before 2013 had even begun, dozens upon dozens of listeners had tossed aside an album with which they had spent forty, or even at a push eighty, minutes. “Bit samey” was the preferred epithet of these musical fidgets. I mention this because, looking back in recent weeks, I was conscious of the fact that I had let it drift into the background somewhat in a way ‘C’Mon’ never did and never has. Partly, I suspect, this was down to never getting a quiet vinyl copy and partly it was as a result of having had early access during the end of last year. As I wrote in 2011’s list, that last record was a particularly special discovery for me and I carried all of those emotions and attachments into my response to ‘The Invisible Way’. I loved it. Nothing sparkled quite like ‘Try To Sleep’, but these songs are certainly on a par with that album as a whole.

Returning to it as part of finalising this list, it was like finding a favourite item of clothing you’d somehow forgotten ever buying. I’ve been playing it a lot in recent weeks and it is a less plush album that its predecessor, but no less affecting. ‘Plastic Cup’ gets things underway, uncoiling wonderfully to a chiming middle eight with soaring backing vocals and glistening guitar, while the lyrics play their own games come the end of the song. The metronomic ‘Amethyst’ is a classic Sparhawk/Parker duet, with sparse piano, acoustic guitar high up in the mix and elongated vowel sounds aplenty. The cascading, enveloping piano rush at the start of ‘So Blue’ is irresistible, giving way to a quite remarkable performance from Parker, supporting herself with a delicate back-up to the truly magical main vocal. It is, quite sincerely, one of the finest things the band have ever recorded and fills the room and your thoughts with ease.

I’ve already alluded to the wonders of the track ‘Holy Ghost’ when writing about Mavis Staples‘One True Vine’, upon which a cover of it features. That album was produced by Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, who also took the helm for this record, coaxing out a fulsome soundstage for this most delicately minimalist of bands. He hasn’t built in unnecessary layers to add heft, but has managed to present their music in a rich, warm fashion that may surprise those who have previously struggled to fully engage with Low’s work. Take the pulsing drums of ‘Clarence White’, for example. They are foregrounded but not aggressive at the song’s start, but they seem to almost fall in line when the chorus appears, taking their place within a rich but simple collection of sounds.

The piano/Parker pairing is used to great effect across ‘The Invisible Way’, ‘Four Score’ a far more muted track than ‘So Blue’ but still serving to demonstrate the true majesty of Mimi’s voice, something which is also at the centre of  ‘Just Make It Stop’. It almost shimmies along, fidgety percussion driving forth a glorious tune and pushing Parker at a pace that is far less common for her but no less effective. Sparkhawk returns for the lullaby-like ‘Mother’, which offers some personal reflections amongst more hopeful tones, and ‘On My Own’ which skips into view before taking a far darker turn around the two minute mark. Fuzzed chords descend and the song starts to unravel, Sparhawk’s guitar feeling like a weapon being used to hack away at the track, while pretty piano continues resolutely unbowed. The repeated refrain of “Happy Birthday” over the track’s final minute seems withering and insincere, leaving a tense air at its climax, only for ‘To Our Knees’ to pop up and make you cry.

A delicately simple backdrop supports another stirring Parker vocal for a song which looks at how love can endure and withstand whatever life throws at it. It is a beautiful end to a genuinely beautiful album. I got married in the summer and we gave all of the guests a compilation of songs for each year of our relationship so far. Each track represented something significant from a given time and, for 2013, we chose ‘To Our Knees’, reflecting the shared joy of witnessing Low at The Trinity in Bristol this April. It seemed a fitting way to close that collection, just as it so perfectly rounds out ‘The Invisible Way’.

Looking back over what I’ve just written, it now seems a little odd that his record is only at Number Ten in this list. Perhaps I’ll reflect on that in the near future and figure I got it wrong. Suffice to say, what really matters here is that if anyone is reading this having not heard the record, you should rectify that immediately. Low are a very special band who make very special music and I am thrilled that they are able to provoke so much in me. Long may that continue.

BEST OF 2011: 1. Low – C’mon

The slow fade, the chiming and immersive backdrop, the delicate lullaby of the vocal – all combine to form the most startling opening to an album this year. Within a minute I was certain that I was going to adore this album and by the time it had finished the only thing I wanted was to hear it again. Few songs are so obviously classics on first listen that when one emerges, it’s like the first flutters of falling in love. ‘Try To Sleep’ is a bold choice as first track because it leaves a lot to live up to for the nine tracks which follow. Not that that seems to be a problem.

Low1

You See Everything’ is the first of Mimi Parker’s big numbers on this record, a glorious track with a grand sound and a hypnotic charm, taking the wash of luxury applied to the album’s opener and running with it. While ‘Witches’ is a fine example of how a different producer can eek out new things from old sounds. The bold, spacious and gnarled guitar lines which have graced so many of the band’s records are present, but set as part of a much bigger wall of sound, with driving percussion and the chiming gloss of the opening pair still operating underneath. Production duties are shared between the band and Matt Beckley, who has previously worked with Avril Lavigne, Leona Lewis and even the Backstreet Boys. Not that that is in anyway obvious, beyond the slight sheen given to the album’s more grandiose moments.

The constant use of the tag ‘slowcore’ does Low no favours, suggesting as it does that their music is melancholia bordering on the bleak whereas one of the most bare tracks on ‘C’mon’ is not overly gloom in its actual sound. ‘Done’, below lyrics telling us “if you see my love, tell her I’m done”, has an aching lap steel from Nels Cline which underpins it, emotive and rich. Sad songs don’t make sad people. That logic is imbecilic and lazy, just like happy songs don’t make for happy people. Think of the savings the NHS could make with a Girls Aloud album. A gentle ache is often euphoric in its execution.

Take Parker’s crowning glory, ‘Especially Me’, which opens with the sparkling line “Cry me a river, so I can float over to you”. A slow thud keeps time while an atmospheric wash of sound, with Alan Sparhawk very low in the mix, slowly gathers momentum behind her hymnal vocal. The stirring string break which captures the conflicted emotions at the heart of the song is so utterly enthralling that when, thirty seconds later, the song ends, you’re just left hanging. Only the very best music really manipulates your emotions and ‘C’mon’ can certainly do that.

The second half of the record opens with ‘$20’, which it’s probably fair to say has plenty in common with Low records of old with its minimal sound and meditative delivery. Nevertheless, the occasional jagged strums of electric guitar maintain a certain edge, in keeping with the sinister undercurrents of old, even if the album as a whole is far lighter affair than recent releases. This idea is fully explored on ‘Majesty/Magic’, which starts in a similar vein but then builds into a crescendo of drums and guitar, with a pulsing energy and the feel of the threat of a far off storm.

Nightingale’ has the same sloping, soulful guitar sound which emboldened the album’s opening tracks and the chorus is heavenly, swooping down in its closing line with a grace and elegance that is simple yet breath-taking. The song washes over you, like the early hours of hazy summer light, leaving you prone for the eight and a bit minutes of ‘Nothing But Heart’. This track, more than any other here, highlights the power of this band’s sonics. Having gone loud(ish) with ‘The Great Destroyer’ and electronic with ‘Drums And Guns’, this offering serves to remind us that Low are capable of manipulating a soundstage in a fashion few can replicate. Over its duration, as the additional instruments appear including a gorgeous guitar break, the song gradually gets louder, until Parker unexpectedly makes an appearance around the six minute mark. It’s a wondrous piece of music and something which feels like the perfect way to end such an accomplished album.

And yet, ‘Something’s Turning Over’, a strummed folky song with gorgeous harmonies and little more than three minutes on the clock, serves to leave things on a musically optimistic note, even if the lyrics suggest otherwise: “just because you never hear their voices, don’t mean they won’t kill you in your sleep.” That this is then followed with a ‘la la la’ coda to close suggests there’s more than a little wry smile behind this supposedly gloomy duo.

There have been some very impressive, massively emotional and beautifully produced albums released this year, but very few have combined all three of those elements. Within that already tiny list, there is only one album which I have already installed on my favourite records of all time list, which I have played at least once a week for most of this year and which I would buy every single one of you if I could afford to. It is ‘C’mon’ by Low and it is a bloody triumph.

20 from ‘11 so far – Part 2

I like lists. Even a brief browse of the site should make that pretty clear. Following on from numbers 20-11, which you can find here, read on for the second half of Just Played’s Top 20 albums from the first half of 2011.Where I’ve already reviewed the album in question there is a link through to it, and all albums have a listen link to Spotify and a buy link through to the marvellous Rise site, who’ll sort you out with the tunes pretty sharpish. Feel free to agree, mutter abuse or supply your own lists below. Right then…

10. Metronomy – ‘The English Riviera’ (BECAUSE MUSIC)

METRONOMYEssentially a very well constructed pop record, ‘The English Riviera’ is a suave and polished beast, blessed with hooks to die for and seductively nimble bass lines. Recent single ‘The Loop’ is an insidious electro-burst, lodging itself in your head for days on end, while ‘Everything Goes My Way’, with the gorgeous vocals of Roxanne Clifford, is a lazy summer smash in waiting. It’s only relatively recently that this has moved from being a pleasant little record I play when the sun shines to a favourite from the year so far. When you really listen to it, which is to say put down books, iWotsits and magazines and just concentrate, the really rather beautiful production hits you. Pick apart the bits of ‘She Wants’ on a decent pair of headphones and I suspect you’ll be suitably impressed. Oh, and the only thing this has in common with the band’s earlier incarnation is the band name on the sleeve. Be not afraid.

Listen / Buy

9. The Low Anthem‘Smart Flesh’ (BELLA UNION)

Low Anthem SmartEveryone having caught up thanks to Bella Union picking up the initially self-released ‘Oh My God Charlie Darwin’ in 2009, there was a great deal of interest in this record and it’s hard to imagine anyone being disappointed. As almost every review mentioned, this was committed to tape in a disused pasta sauce factory but that fact is actually significant as some of the recordings on here are utterly breath-taking. The size of this alternative studio is discernible on a number of occasions, particularly on some of Ben Knox Miller’s haunting vocals which were recorded in umpteen different ways. Still veering between fragile, meditative reflections on the human condition and all out Dylan-cum-Waits rackets, this is the band’s defining moment thus far.

“The sound of ‘Smart Flesh’ is like nothing you’ve ever heard before. Listen carefully to ‘Golden Cattle’ and it’s quite clear that lead vocalist Ben Knox Miller’s affecting performance is being picked up from afar; emptiness never sounded so good. ‘Love And Altar’ has a similarly airy feel, the attention to detail in creating this distinctive, raw sound utterly staggering. Miller sounds as if his vocal is being left somewhere in the past, the other voices in the band harmonising beautifully around him. It’s impressive through speakers but a listen via headphones left me more than a little choked up.”

Read the full review

Listen / Buy

8. Tom Williams & The Boat – ‘Too Slow’ (WIREBOAT RECORDINGS)

Tom Williams Too SlowFollowing on from a number of excellent EPs, this is a heart-warmingly splendid debut outing from one of Just Played’s favourite bands. A genuine music fan and somebody who has spent some years truly crafting his sound and maturing as an artist, the Tom Williams who fronts this tremendous band has a distinctive and charismatic yelp which drives these largely wonderful songs. While their folky origins still show through from time to time, things took a slightly darker and spikier turn on the debut, with lead single ‘Concentrate’ sounding heavier than it ever had before. Lyrically there’s plenty to get your teeth into, the lines “they don’t know my dad, he’s this town through and through. Old school, fifty-something balding racist, and so his mates are too,” are so splendidly evocative they’ve proved to be a popular search term for people finding my original review of the record. Ultimately, fans of narrative-driven indie will find much to love here but even if that’s not your bag, I’d urge you to have a listen to this really very impressive debut.

“‘See My Evil’, having previously been the lead track on an EP of the same name, makes an appearance near to the end of the record. It sounds just as shudderingly splendid as it did that first time: like a grubby Arcade Fire after a night in a dark room with a fine malt, headphones and a copy of Jeff Buckley’s ‘(Sketches For) My Sweetheart The Drunk’.”

Read the full review

Listen / Buy

7. Alessi’s Ark‘Time Travel’ (BELLA UNION)

alessiA bewitching stage presence and an angelic vocal make Alessi’s Ark very easy to love and this album is yet another triumph for the good folks at Bella Union. Finely crafted folk is elevated towards greatness by the stunning voice of Alessi Laurent-Marke, which is utterly beautiful throughout. Openers ‘Kind Of Man’ and ‘Wire’ should be enough to have you sold but, failing that, skip to one particular song. ‘Maybe I Know’, an impressive retooling of the Lesley Gore pop stomper, tells the tale of a cheated upon partner realising that the gossip is all about her and will break your heart. With the aforementioned vocal talents of Alessi, it will have you on the verge of tears. It’s the standout moment on an album which rarely dips below excellent and the old school songwriting and airy, summery production will leave you utterly spellbound.

Listen / Buy

6. Fleet Foxes – ‘Helplessness Blues’ (BELLA UNION)

Fleet FoxesAfter the somewhat unexpected love-fest which greeted their debut album, things seemed a little less gushing this time around, which is unfortunate as ‘Helplessness Blues’ is actually the superior release. Opener ‘Montezuma’ picks up from where we left off, all cascading harmonies and gently plucked folksy guitar, but don’t be foolish enough to subscribe to the hipster notion that this is an album of wet, hippy-dippy, breakfast-knitting nonsense – because it really isn’t. ‘Battery Kinzie’ is a gloriously plinky-plonky little number which sounds like something straight out of the late-Sixties/early-Seventies Elektra stable, while ‘Lorelai’ shuffles along beneath a wash of harmony, the musical equivalent of that warm, fuzzy feeling you get when you witness a particularly beautiful sunset. A logical follow-up to their self-titled debut then, and a fine, fine collection of songs.

Listen / Buy

5. Elbow – ‘Build A Rocket Boys!’ (FICTION)

Elbow BuildHow do you follow up a record as utterly beguiling as ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’? Well, it would seem it can be done, on this evidence. Take the completely unnecessary ‘The Birds (Reprise)’ out of the equation and you’re left with ten delicately crafted tracks which, as I pointed out in my Clash review back in March, take in the best bits of their career to date. The pressure was off and the band could do pretty much whatever they wanted to…and they did. With Guy Garvey’s national treasure status pretty much assured and another stunning Glastonbury performance chalked up, it seems strange to say that I was faintly underwhelmed by ‘Build A Rocket Boys!’ at first. It’s a more subtle record than its predecessor, built around gently uplifting mantras and airy piano refrains. Recent singles ‘Open Arms’ and ‘Neat Little Rows’ both demonstrate the continued knack for meticulously measured epics but be sure to seek out ‘Lippy Kids’ and ‘The Night Will Always Win’, the latter balancing on a simple little piano line as Garvey croons “I miss your stupid face, I miss your bad advice.” Craig Potter’s sympathetic and spacious production remains a delight and however much other albums may be more exciting or more ground-breaking, I find myself returning again and again to this more than most.

Listen / Buy

4. Kitty, Daisy & Lewis – ‘Smoking In Heaven’ (SUNDAY BEST)

KDLAfter a solid and well-received debut, these analogue purists with a knack for good old-fashioned rock and roll deliver a follow up which oozes class and continues to floor me on each successive spin. Sounding fifty years out of time and traversing genres without concern, it is unlike anything else you will hear this summer. And you really must hear it. Boldly commencing with the ska-infused ‘Tomorrow’, the album ranges from straight up rock and roll through raucous R’n’B and folksy swing. A band at ease with their sound, the utter joy at the heart of these songs is conveyed explicitly throughout, most notably on ‘Messing With My Life’ and ‘Don’t Make A Fool Out Of Me’. Forget the fact that Jools Holland probably loves this and console yourself with the fact that Mark Lamarr is also probably quite keen too. Although I’d generally advocate vinyl as the way to go for every single title in this list, ‘Smoking In Heaven’ is available as a superlative double wax pressing and it is truly the only way to properly hear this brilliant album.

Listen / Buy

3. Gruff Rhys‘Hotel Shampoo’ (TURNSTILE)

Gruff Rhys HSThe top three are very hard to separate at the moment as they’re all pretty special. After the homespun charms of ‘Yr Atal Genhedlaeth’ and ‘Candylion’, Gruff Rhys has pulled out all the stops for his third solo outing. While those earlier albums were charming and intermittently ace, ‘Hotel Shampoo’ is as good as some of the Super Furries’ finest. Recent single ‘Honey All Over’ evokes his home band in their ‘Phantom Power’ pomp, while ‘Christopher Columbus’ forces a distorted ska sound through the electronic burbles of ‘Guerrilla’. The album hangs together well and although the singles form the opening salvo, things don’t flag towards the end. ‘Conservation Conversation’ squawks and honks away as only a song built around a repetitive phrase playing on the similarity of two words can, while ‘Softly Sophie’ deliberately wrong-foots you off the back of the playfully falsetto chorus. Only Gruff could pull off the potentially nauseating title “If We Were Words (We Would Rhyme)” and the track itself is a delight. In short, this isn’t just his best solo album, but also one of the best albums out there featuring Gruff full stop.

Listen / Buy

2. Bill Callahan – ‘Apocalypse’ (DRAG CITY)

Bill Callahan ApocalypseCold Blooded Old Times’ was my first exposure to the majesty of Bill Callahan via the ‘High Fidelity’ soundtrack, back when he was still plying his trade as Smog. After an experiment with brackets, he finally opted to operate under his own name with 2007’s ‘Woke On A Whaleheart’. I returned to the fray with the luscious ‘Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle’ in 2009 and quickly sought out the majority of his back catalogue. While ‘A River Ain’t Too Much Love’ may well be my preferred Smog outing, the slightly less polished sounds of ‘Knock Knock’ and ‘Red Apple Falls’ also appealed and ‘Apocalypse’ is perhaps the closest of all of his ‘solo’ outings to the sound of his previous project. Opener ‘Drover’ sets the tone: low-key band performance, largely deadpan half-spoken, half-sung vocals, occasional bursts of feedback and anxious fiddle. It’s a spectacular way to start a record and all seven of the songs in this set are distinctive and memorable in their own way. Most immediately worthy of attention is the raw, lop-sided throb of ‘America!’ which has even been described by less self-conscious reviewers than I as “funky.” ‘One Fine Morning’ is a strung out, near-nine-minute finale which concludes with Callahan singing the album’s catalogue album in lulling tones. Which is, clearly, unutterably cool. But for the sheer magnificence of the album which tops this list, this would be an easy contender for album of the year and you certainly won’t regret the investment.

Listen / Buy

1. Low ‘C’mon’ (SUB POP)

Low CmonI absolutely adore this album; I’m still playing it weekly and I can’t imagine ever tiring of it. The first time I played it, I fell in love and little has changed in the months since. Even if you think you know what Low do and find it hard to imagine ever rhapsodising so verbosely about any of their output, you really should put aside forty-five minutes to spend in the company of ‘C’Mon’. I’ve always quite liked them: their ‘Christmas’ EP regularly gets a dusting down come December and ‘Drums And Guns’ went down well enough but I had little else from their back catalogue and I wasn’t waiting with baited breath for this album’s arrival. Despite all of this, ‘C’Mon’ is my most played album of the year to date, by far. Alan Sparhawk’s keening vocal on opener and first single ‘Try To Sleep’ was all it took. The chiming and immersive backdrop feels soothing and luxurious and it is as welcome a tonic at the end of a long day as cup of tea and a chocolate digestive. The almost somnambulant pace of old is still present in part, but the delicate jangle, used so well on the aforementioned festive offering, is foregrounded here more so then ever before, and it is a triumph. Having tried loud (‘The Great Destroyer’) and electronic (‘Drums And Guns’), it’s been suggested that this is the band returning to what they do best and, frankly, I have no problem with that when it results in ten songs as imperious as these. ‘Especially Me’ and ‘Something’s Turning Over’ are further examples of  vocals balanced meticulously atop shimmering instrumentation, the former allowing Mimi Parker creep out from the, nevertheless beautiful, dueting role she takes on ‘You See Everything’ and ‘Done’. Several months ago, I told one purchaser of the album that if they didn’t like it, I’d give them their money back myself. They’ve not asked for any cash as yet and I don’t imagine you would either.

Listen / Buy

2011OTR

March Reviews

Time to mop up my spillages in the review pages of Clash Magazine again. Two of these have already had the full works in recent weeks and another will be soaked in a torrent of hyperbole any day now, but I still rather like bunging these up here.

Elbow Build

ELBOW – ‘Build A Rocket Boys!’ (FICTION)

Safe in the knowledge than an audience awaits, Elbow’s fifth album finds the band doing exactly as they please. Combining the expanses of their debut, the delicate melody of ‘Leaders Of The Free World’ and the beautiful production of ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’, ‘Build A Rocket Boys!’ is a band in full flight. While its subtle charms take time to emerge, let ‘The Birds’ and ‘High Ideals’ take a few laps around your head and the love affair will be back on. Beautifully produced and blessed with Guy Garvey in fine voice, it’s a small but perfectly formed step forward.

I keep meaning to do a big piece on this album but I can’t imagine that anybody who likes Elbow hasn’t already bought it. It’s a gorgeous sounding record – an impression far further enhanced by the majestic double 45rpm vinyl pressing – and I stand by the comment about it needing time. My first few plays were actually slightly disappointing and I was left wondering where the majesty was. It is, rest assured, very much present but it really repays multiple plays and it’s every bit the tremendous follow up we all knew they’d deliver.

Continue reading “March Reviews”