29 August 2016

Autoheart - I Can Build A Fire

This is almost a record I pass on, it was one that I almost put to the side due to the size of the submissions list (that will be whittled down in the next fortnight, got a lot of time on my hands soon).  But I kept coming back to that cover, it is just a beautiful image - even if you have a coloured blind eye, it is a striking and vibrant image that is looks like a piece of art that belongs on the walls of an art exhibition.  I really love it, so much that I ramped it up the list of albums to review (hey, I am the boss of the blog and as I am doing this for free, I think other bands can wait a few more days).  So, who are Autoheart?  Autoheart started off as Gadsdens in 2007 and have been championed by many the likes of Marc Radcliffe, Q Magazine and other British Institutions and changed their name to Autoheart in 2011; they are comprised of Jody Gadsden on vocals/guitar, Simon Neilson on keys/synth/sax and Barney JC on bass/guitar/synth. They have been compared to Erasure, Dexy Midnight Runners, Tracy Chapman and Kodaline - that is quite a diverse group of comparisons there, but will it ring true when I listen to the album?

Starting off the album is "Oxford Blood" which is a minimalist pop song about relationships and avoiding an argument whilst trying to make a decision, there is a hypnotic keyboard structure behind the song and when I first heard it, it took my breath away.  I was just going to check a song out briefly before I was heading to bed on Saturday, just researching for a radio show I present and I had to stay and listen to the whole album just on the strength of "Oxford Blood" alone.  It gives a new take on the classic pop sound of Erasure, Pet Shop Boys and other acts and makes it their own.  "Love Is the Cure" continues this fascinating album with another love song, something of running theme for this album and it builds up the energy from "Oxford Blood" with a drop of drama and a story about a broken relationship.  It is dark number, but the music has a certain brightness about it that is a delightful contradiction that I have always enjoyed in pop music.  The third song is called "Possibility" and we are thrown to the turmoil of a destructive relationship that is either over or about to reach its messy conclusion; but there is still a longing for them, but also wanting to have space to be on their own.  It is another contradiction which is draped across another understated piece of music that is incredibly beautiful and well crafted.

"Rip" is a slow stab to the heart with multiple tiny slices being given to the soul and then having salt rubbed in the wounds as the relationship is mercifully put to rest.  It is a slower number, one that aims for the stars as they release their former lover back to the world and actually hits all the right spots; it is heart breaking, beautifully performed and it sticks in your mind long after it has finished - this album has just kept giving with each track so far and this is one of the best songs on this album.  "Sylvia" is the next song and it tries to bring back, with a song that sounds like it should be played at the beach and a song that has a party attitude and is trying to get everyone up to dance around the world.  For me, it is the weakest song of the album and does not quite reach the heights of the other songs; but I still like the song, so even the weakest song is a song I would play at any point of the day - that is a win for this album in my book.  The sixth song is "We Can Build a Fire", which contains the title of the album in the first verse 'I Can Build a Fire'.  This song is screaming "RELEASE ME AS A SINGLE, RIGHT NOW!!!!"; it is a fantastic song with a beautiful synth performance, a brilliant set of lyrics and one of the catchiest chorus sections that I have been singing for days.  It is almost the song of the album, almost......

Next is "(Intro) Feel"/"Before You Came", now I know they are technically two separate songs, but they are joint together in the same way people would associate Salt & Pepper, Scrooge & Marley, Zappa and Genius - all that sort of things.  It is yet another love song and it is a devastating number, there is a confessional aspect to the lyrics and the desire to reach the person you call home.  It is a slower number, with a perfect set of lyrics and music - best song of the album, hands down the best thing on here amongst a sea of brilliant tunes.  "Murky Waters" is next and on this song it reminds me a bit of A-ha, a bit of Erasure, a slice of Duran Duran and a huge dose of class and style added from their own personal arsenal to the mix as well.  It is a strong number to follow "Before You Came", it stands up well and shows how this band can diverse their sound.  The penultimate song is called "My Hallelujah" once again just showcases how good this band, a minimalist tune that details the end of a relationship that should have been over many moons ago and the anger that is laced over this stark and empty tune makes it a harsh 'Dear John' letter in the end.  But it is a strong song that does not need too much added to the mix, it is a perfect example of less is more and it sounds absolutely stunning and features backing vocals from Rebecca Bennett (who also gave backing vocals on "My Hallelujah").  Ending the album is "Joseph", it ends the album with a duet between Jody Gadsden and Anne Haight (who also provided backing vocals on "Oxford Blood", "Love Is the Cure" and "We Can Build a Fire") and it ends the album with a dark tune about not being able to help someone like you used to, the trust and love is over, someone is no longer there and everything has changed.  It stars off very simple, building slowly and then it has a beautiful pinnacle towards the end of the song to give this album one last high point before the finale - what a song, what an album.

I think it is fair to say that I love this album.  When bands such as Years & Years and Bastille have attempted to make this style of music and failed to a certain degree, it is really refreshing to hear an act like Autoheart who have nailed it so well.  It is one of the best pop albums I have ever heard, there is not one track on here that I would not listen to again and again, there is not one foot placed wrong and even the weakest track on this album is better than the best percentage of the current top forty in the UK as I write this.  I have tried to think of something on here that disappoints me, but apart from chopping the introduction to "Before You Came", there is nothing coming to mind as it is one of the special moment in 2016.  This beautiful contradiction of an album, a perfect pop record that has heartbreak and love in conflict at the heart of its every beat is a cover roulette success story and it is a contender for my own album of the year; hopefully it will also be up there when the votes are taken in December for the blog album of the year as well - a perfect album, well done Autoheart!

10 out of ten - This is proof that there is a God

Top track - Before You Came

You can download the digital version of I Can Build a Fire on Amazon here

You can purchase I Can Build a Fire (including a limited CD run at the time of writing) on the Autoheart Bandcamp page here

You can visit the Autoheart website here

You can follow the activities of Autoheart on Facebook here

You can stream I Can Build a Fire on Spotify here

You can stream I Can Build a Fire on Deezer here

You can stream I Can Build a Fire on Tidal here.

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