Album Review: Kodaline – In a Perfect World

By on Tuesday, 18th June 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

Kodaline In a Perfect World coverWe’ve been following Dublin band Kodaline‘s steady rise to fame since last summer, when John wrote this Bands to Watch on them. I don’t think we ever knew how massive they were destined to become; it’s hard to gauge a band’s talent and longevity on the basis of one song, but even then we knew they were something special. This year in 2013 saw the band’s first appearances at SXSW and the Great Escape, and just this past weekend, the four played in front of a huge crowd at Isle of Wight. (Don’t believe me? Check out this Twitter post.) So it’s just perfect timing that their long-awaited debut, ‘In a Perfect World’ is being released this week. Cheryl did the honours of reviewing the ‘High Hopes’ EP earlier this year, and while I’ve thoroughly enjoyed what was available on the US version of Spotify and the songs they played when I saw them live in Austin and Brighton, hearing this album all the way through is the first real listen I have of a collection of Kodaline songs. And here we go…

The album starts out strong with ‘One Day’. The twang of singer Steve Garrigan’s voice with appropriately twangy guitars begin ‘In a Perfect World’ on a slower, reflective note: “if life passes you by, don’t waste your time on your own…your heart gets bigger / when you try to figure out / what it’s all about / your skin gets thicker / when you try to figure out”. Brilliant wordsmithing in the bridge there. Things take a dip into sadness for ‘All I Want’, the song that Kodaline have become known most for here in America (thanks, Sirius XM). I actually have trouble listening to this song. Depending on your personal mood at the time you queue it up, it may be too heartbreaking (“if you loved me, why’d you leave me? / take my body, take my body / all I want is, all I need is / to find somebody, to find somebody”) to hear this song Garrigan wrote about his ex-girlfriend.

So imagine my surprise when you’re jolted from sadness into the mandolin jangly happiness of live crowd-pleaser ‘Love Like This’. Of all of their songs, this is the one I expect to get people dancing in droves at festivals this summer. This isn’t the end of the Kodaline roller coaster. Inexplicably, you’re then led into ‘High Hopes’, which, admittedly, has been my stalwart favourite since it was unleashed on the public. Anthemic? Yes. Amazing? Yes. Is it going to draw Coldplay comparisons with the mesmerising piano? Yes. Is it in the right place on this album? Not really. Newer song ‘Brand New Day’ is interesting with its xylophone and its storyline about making it big and travelling the world (see the spoken line “we could be big in Japan!”), but it doesn’t sound like the rest of ‘In a Perfect World’. Or even Kodaline themselves, with a cheesy singsong chorus. Is this the same band? I’m not trying to be flippant here, it’s not a bad song. It’s just so different sound-wise, I was left wondering if this was possibly a song from their pre-Kodaline days.

It, then, falls to ‘After the Fall’ to pick up the pieces and bring things back round to a ‘Love Like This’ sheen. With a driving percussive rhythm and very nice chord changes, it’s another guaranteed crowd-pleaser, with Garrigan’s voice soaring, then slinking around the corners of the song, as his bandmates sing along with him. Speaking of which, Garrigan’s bandmates – Mark Prendergast on lead guitar, Jason Boland on bass and Vinnie May, Jr. on drums – lend such a beautiful harmony to most of the tracks on here, which is not something you can say on a lot of pop records these days. The harmonies on here should be savoured, such as on the soulfully inspiring ‘All Comes Down’, which is helped along with a makeshift gospel choir made up of a group of their boozed-up mates.

The beautiful expansiveness of ‘One Day’ is revisited on ‘Talk’, which is probably close to dethroning ‘High Hopes’ as my favourite Kodaline track of all time. I could have used this song a couple of years ago; the song covers the heartfelt acceptance of a relationship that has ended and how the feelings you once had in your heart now live on in your head as memories. There have been so many songs in popular music about breakups, but none of those had such beautiful words as, “you were a moment in life that comes and goes / a riddle or rhyme that no one knows / a change in the heart, a twist of fate / couldn’t fix it, it’s too late”. May’s crashing drum beats almost sound like gunshots, but they’re tempered by the angelic multi-step harmonies that come in near the end. Like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. You will get through this break-up. One day the skies will open up and things will be better.

The last two tracks on the album are the dark yet expressive ‘Pray’, which debuted on the ‘All I Want’ EP last year and is therefore familiar to the Kodaline devoted, and the most extreme opposite to that you can think of, by way of a hoedown in ‘Way Back When’. It even starts with a slurp from a cuppa, it’s so unpretentious. But again, I’m left saying to myself, these are the same guys that wrote ‘High Hopes’? The pacing of ‘In a Perfect World’ leaves a lot to be desired, but because the types of songs being presented here are either of sad love song / torch, happy singalong or folk varieties, I’m not sure how much reordering the songs would have helped. Overall, there are some really great songs on here, but if you do decide to get the album, I think you might be as confused as I am in terms of which is the true Kodaline. Maybe the best thing to do is see them at a festival this summer and decide which one’s for you.

7/10

Kodaline’s debut album ‘In a Perfect World’ is out now on B-Unique / Sony / RCA. You can watch the band perform album track ‘All Comes Down’ and additional song ‘Perfect World’ at the Great Escape 2013 here.

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[…] album released in June, ‘In a Perfect World’. (You can read my review of the album here.) Watch all the beauty enfold […]

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