It is lovely when you get a surprise request about a band you have not really heard of before. Suggested by an anonymous reader (and whoever you are, thanks for this), this is the fourth studio album by the natives of Selkirk, in the Borders of Scotland. They have slowly been forging a career for themselves which has resulted in a strong following in the UK and the USA. Indeed, when this album was released in the UK it made the top ten and also charted well across the pond. They are cut from a similar cloth to Little Comets and Vampire Weekend, with a little bit of Biffy Clyro mixed in for good measure.
Starting with the piano on "Acts Of Man", the falsetto delivery over the mournful ivory leanings makes for a subtle and gentle introduction to the album. There is an almost Elbow sense of grandeur to this song; it brought to mind the beginning of 'The Seldom Seen Kid" (cleverly linked here) with that Little Comets style of guitar as well. For this type of album, a soft opening is a perfect introduction to their work. "Backyard Skulls" with its organ opening and machine gun-styled drumming is more vibrant number that take the album up a notch as the second track always should. After this you have "Holy" which keeps that energy up and I can imagine these first few songs going down a storm in their live shows.
"The Woodpile" is next and has that sing along quality that is a must for any indie band - however, this song has been pretty much on a regular rotation since I first heard it about a month ago. It has an epic sense of wonder and that sort of primal rhythm that taps into the soul, making you feel good to be alive. I wish I could say the same of "Late March, Death March". It tries to reach the same heights, yet it falls just slightly short of the mark. But not every track can be a diamond to be honest. However, next up is "December's Traditions" which has a sort of traditional vibration about it, dressed in modern clothes. It has links to Scottish Borders, as well as the North East of England (sometimes I feel that they are both one in the same for me). However, it is a strange and complex song which brings the album back on track.
"Housing (in)" is a minute plus affair which acts as a sort of natural break for the album; it is ok but does not really bring (or take) anything to the album. It is over before you can get that much into it (unlike something by Napalm Death). "Dead Now" is the next proper track and it does not do much for this record. It is just a little bit dull, the choir or backing vocals distract more than compliment and it feels as if they are trying too hard here. When they say there is something wrong with me in the song, they should say there is something wrong with the track. "State Hospital" is next and this was the lead single of the album from which the album title is taken from. It is almost bi-polar in nature, swaying from quiet reflection to loud chorus; it aims to be uplifting and damming about the subject matter. Because of this, it does not do either with any real conviction. It is a shame that this section of the album is not as good as what has gone beforehand.
Following on is "Nitrous Gases" which goes for a quite opening and building towards that glorious moment; instead of trying to mix it up and it is much more effective as a result. It does not try too hard to please both elements of the band and it works effectively. "Housing (out)" is the second micro track and again it really does nothing or take anything from the album. It just takes up time that is not really needed. Ending the album is "The Oil Slick" that has to be a strange choice of closing track. If they had have ended with "Nitrous Gases" it could have made for a much more satisfying result. It is not the "The Oil Slick" is a bad song, it is just in the wrong place and ends this on a confusing note, even with that ending that is trying to be the pinnacle moment of the album; it is just bad tracking.
Overall I like what this band offers, it is not complicated and it is very simple in purpose. They are very good musicians and when the mood takes them I can see that they have a tune or two up their sleeves. However, there is far too much on here which is not needed; the two housing tracks are wasted and the second half of the album does not compliment the first half in anyway shape or form. It is such a shame as "The Woodpile" is truly one of my current favourite tunes at the moment, but this album does not live up to that standard.
5 out of ten - It could have been a bit better
Top track - The Woodpile
You can purchase the album from Amazon here
You can visit the band's website here
You can listen to the album on Spotify here
Or for Deezer user's out there - here is a link for you
Here the video for "The Woodpile"