Opener Nostalgia contains all the slow-burning elements which should bring this band to a much wider audience. O’Reilly’s vocals are delivered in a smooth, half-awake baritone, again not a million miles away from National singer Matt Berninger. Recent single Colony of Ants is in a similar vein, with percussion ebbing and flowing, driving the intensity back and forth.
Ian Corr’s keyboards are prominent throughout, especially on anthemic tracks like Gabriel, reminiscent of Dakota Suite at their most upbeat, and last year’s Headstoned, which combined with Eamonn Young’s faint growls of electric guitar would have fit in well on High Violet. Lazise takes its cue from the ticking of a clock, adding instruments gradually, and the sparser White Heart and stripped-down acoustic strum Drift are all very tasteful. Low Lying Fog is the most naggingly urgent song here, O’Reilly sounding almost damaged as he croons “I’m crawling beneath my low lying fog to breathe” evoking early Cure.
It does get a bit same-y after a while, all ten tracks conjure up a similar mood without much variety. All of them are of a pretty high quality, ten tracks with ten strong melodies and proper choruses.
Forsaken is beautifully bleak. Evocative arrangements, lush melodies and soothing lullabies envelop serious lyrics on dark subjects. Written by Kieran O’Reilly, all kinds of intense issues are alluded to within this ten song offering.
‘Headstoned’, which was released last December, outlines a cynical judgement of someone who’s been found guilty, a callous, self-groomed charlatan, inflicting hurt and pain. Enough pain to create a “whole field of headstones”. Broody and melancholic, with ominous vocals following a minimalist piano lead. Picture this opening scene: “Man sits, tight arms, rope wrapped around his fist. Two girls run in to the sound of the cracking whip. This is all engineered by him. Cold beads of sweat are alien to him. He sits across as if he’s holding court”. Sounds like the start of a crime thriller script. It’s actually the first verse of ‘Even Judas’. Compelling words from Kieran, before the gently tempered, well-timed melody reinforces the tension.
Almost a love song is ‘Lazise’. Lyrically referring to the town in Northern Italy, I can only guess that it holds a place in Kieran’s heart. The song morphs into a love song of promise, “Everyday can be our Lazise”. The pretty percussion starts with a ticking clock, enduring piano gathering momentum until hopeful brass lends itself to the clever yet simple arrangement. ‘Beneath The Fog’ brings the baritone vocals to seductive capacity, delivering “Wild flowers don’t deserve to feel the war that’s deep inside of me/ I’m crawling beneath my low lying fog to breathe”. Razor sharp descriptions, self-loathing, hunters, victims, chains, rising keyboards and lonesome brass layer this like a box of Butler’s chocolates.