Little Fictions

Written by: TL on 26/03/2017 13:31:49

Should you find yourself in the mood for a more grown up bit of music, one good suggestion would be to catch up with British progressive indie group Elbow. They have released their seventh album this year, which extends their tradition for confidently sounding like a group of guys who could probably teach musical theory if they wanted to, and who have little regard for traditional methods of pandering to listeners short on attention span. Rather "Little Fictions" is ten tracks of carefully elaborated little arrangements, at a glance softer and more mellow than most music, but at a closer look still capable of provoking thought and stirring emotion.

The best way to explain the sound to a newcomer is perhaps to call it 'made for concert hall' music - basically compositions that are meant to fill the whole room with you in it, making use of the acoustics, of your new HiFi system, so you can savour the little interplays between instruments, or the fullness of the tones that the band has likely tinkered with endlessly to get them to feel just right. "Little Fictions" as an album is a bit like getting a bottle of finer liquor as a present from friends, being told that it's good stuff for enjoying, not for binging. You'll perhaps rarely find an opportunity where you really want to sit at home and casually swig the scotch, but when you do, it offers a richer taste than most everything else. And that's the type of record this is.

The record opens on a strong foot with "Magnificent (She Says)", where one presumes 'she' was talking about the string arrangements, which are great here, showing off the band's recurring penchant for the classical elements, as violins suddenly rush in and change the atmosphere of the song. Another highlight is "All Disco" at track four, which has an almost psychedelic, hypnotic backdrop and perhaps the album's most infectious lyric in "What does it prove if you die for a tune, it's really all disco". The lyrics also offer the romantic suggestion of growing old and perverted together, flashing a general romantic tendency that also courses through "Trust The Sun" and "Head For Supplies".

In general, while Elbow's hooks are more subtle than anything you'll hear in radio rock, they're still quite strong and nicely distinct, more so here it feels than on the preceding album "The Take Offs And Landings Of Everything". All songs mentioned so far have something that's at least recognisable, if not downright deceptively infectious. But with that being said, as much as the album does have moments where you sit and soak in it, feeling like a connoisseur and enjoying Guy Garvey's endlessly pleasant voice, there are also a few underwhelming moments. "Gentle Storm" is an example where the album's tendency towards repetitive percussion becomes a bit too much, because there's not so much else going on to liven up the track, and later on the record it feels like there's a disparity in length, as the title track drags on for perhaps a bit too long (+8 minutes) while the charming "Montparnasse" before it is sadly cut short before a third minute mark.

Overall, though, catching up with Elbow again is generally rewarded on "Little Fictions", and as much as you recognise the songs after a few spins and hum along, there's a clear impression of potential for another level of enjoyment should you hear the arrangements live in good surroundings. Of course, Elbow aren't really prone to make stuff that seizes you immediately or sweeps you quickly off your feet - their style is - for better and worse, something more stately than that. But for those times when you like to sit back and remind yourself that music doesn't always have to be about quick and easy gratification, theirs is a sure card to play for a more wholesome perspective.

Download: Magnificent (She Says), Trust The Sun, All Disco
For The Fans Of: The National, Death Cab For Cutie, Dry The River
Listen: facebook.com/Elbow

Release date 03.02.2017

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