I Am An Island

Written by: TL on 05/09/2014 15:20:49

A few months ago I was introduced to Scottish newcomers Fatherson via their single "I Like Not Knowing", yet at the time I didn't think too much of the song's chorus, which has now proven ironic considering that it has been impossible to get it off my mind since I popped on the band's debut album "I Am An Island" in a spur of the moment decision about a week ago. As it turns out, the quartet based in Glasgow are deceptively unique, for while you can aptly compare them to other Scottish bands writing anthemic rock music - particularly Twin Atlantic and The Xcerts come to mind at the time of their debut albums - Fatherson have neither the sharpness of the former nor the angsty undercurrent of the latter. Instead they have a startling sense of immediacy about the songs on "I Am An Island", which strides against all the traditions of reservedness or niche-affiliation that you would normally expect from a band most popularly labelled indie rock.

Admittedly there's nothing too unusual about the band's approach: They play soaring, melodic rock with big choruses that rely on quiet/loud dynamics brought about by drastic but well-timed ebbs and flows in the guitar playing, which can be clean and warm and thoughtful - almost noodling at times - only to boom the next moment, ringing grandly and cinematically like they were meant for a post-rock climax. It's evident already in the opener "An Island", which dwells patiently on the same chiming clean melody while singer/guitarist Ross Leighton gradually sets the mood via his gentle and highly melodious vocals, letting you almost arrive at a fear of the song stagnating before things leap to the album's first peak. Imminently afterwards, the guitar recedes to the background of "Hometown", showing that the band understands how to build engaging verses where the vocals and rhythm section take the driver's seat while the guitar and some added cellos merely provide atmosphere, thus establishing a nice, smoldering launch pad for the soaring resolution to take place in the chorus. With the band's style thusly established, it's the perfect time for "I Like Not Knowing" to come striding in as an obvious single, briefly flashing it's recognisable guitar signature in a cardinal example of listener-priming, before painting another version of the dynamic you already expect from the band at this point. As with any great single though, it's the pre-chorus that does by far the most of the work, with the instrumentation dropping away and Leighton's lyrics stepping in to serenade the listener up close: "But I don't own all the thoughts in your head, and if I did, I'd leave them for you to think instead... And I don't where we are going, I could hazard a guess, but I like not knowing".

At this point, the album has already set a steady course for a more than reasonable grade for a debut record, which is why it's doubly impressive that the band only really seems to hit its stride when "Mine For Me" commences the album's second half. Somehow, the elegant details that have kept things vivid so far, and the refrains that have also been catchy enough already, take a notch up with this song, and even more so in the upcoming "Half The Things" and "James". Especially the lowering of the tempo in the former is an excellently timed change of pace at this point, feeling like the band is mellowing things down after a string of similar numbers, but the grounded verse is merely an even better staging ground for an even more spectacular chorus lift-off, making sure that the eventual resolution of the song has the listener imagining fireworks and angels blowing on trumpets while the guitars echo across the space of the arenas that the band's songs will certainly fit if they manage to grow that big. It's actually "Dust" that's the de facto ballad, relying solely on vocals and the ruffling of fingers sliding on guitar strings, and it does well at just settling the mood down before "James" ups the ante again, with waltzing, cello-backed verses, another monumental chorus and a singalongable bridge section for the ages.

Apart from the nuances between different songs being so subtle that you could have a spot of trouble remembering them all apart, "I Am An Island" is an impressively well-resolved debut production then, which makes it a daunting task for the big-rock skepticists, of which there will inevitably be a few who will be caught up searching futilely for aspects of edge and danger that this band doesn't really have at this point. If you ask me though, I don't see it as a detriment to Fatherson that they haven't stretched to sound in stark opposition to anything, because they've done so well at not seeming as tryhard as many bands do when they seek to spread out their arms and embrace a wide audience right from the beginning. I mean is it a problem to be compared to Snow Patrol, if you're actually "out-Snow Patrolling" Snow Patrol? That's what I hear Fatherson doing with "I Am An Island" - They take the Scottish tunefulness of The Xcerts, Twin Atlantic or We Were Promised Jetpacks, and employ it consistently and elegantly in anthemic songs similar to Snow Patrol's "Chasing Cars" or "Run", or Band Of Horses' "Is There A Ghost" or "Funeral". So if you're not stubbornly in opposition to big sounding rock in general, I suspect this might be 2014's definitive new record to pick up in that category.

Download: I Like Not Knowing, Half The Things, James,
For The Fans Of: The Xcerts, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Snow Patrol, Band Of Horses (on big, anthemic hits like "Is There A Ghost")
Listen: facebook.com/fathersonband

Release date 23.06.2014
A Modern Way

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