Album Review: Cloud Boat – Model of You

By on Monday, 7th July 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

London’s Cloud Boat released their debut album ‘Book of Hours’ last year with fanfare on Apollo Records, part of the reactivated R&S empire. In some ways, their 2014 follow-up released today, ‘Model of You’, stays on the same course as its predecessor: there is a method to the duo’s madness, in the wonderfully measured way they’re able to create soundscapes seemingly effortlessly. This is all well and fine if you’re looking for the same kind of sound. Without a doubt, Tom Clarke and Sam Ricketts have buckets of talent between them and depending on the day, I’m sure many people would be quite happy with the majority of this album in their headphones, lying on an idyllic beach somewhere. I know I could.

However, two standout tracks on the album at positions 8 and 9 of this 12-track album – and even the opening track that builds into something aggressive, ‘Prelude’ – hint that this LP could have gone somewhere else entirely, somewhere more obviously dance floor-friendly. ‘Aurelia’, a female name derived from the ‘aureus’, Latin for ‘golden’, follows directly after less than the 2-minute beauteous instrumental ‘Golden Lights’. Singer Tom Clarke emotes, “I’m thinking about stopping it all” and “wondering if I should dive in”; the words weave an interesting story that leaves you wondering if he sings “you’ll see here and watch me get clean” because he’s trying to become absolved of his sins or he’s about to end his life. Unlike the instrumental that proceeds, it’s a monster of a track, with huge beats and guitar flourishes on show and a super infectious chorus.

‘Thoughts in Mine’ begins a slow burner of a track, with dangerous echoes and Clarke’s voice almost a whisper. It’s not until the second verse when the synths are introduced, the beats come to the forefront and Clarke’s intention comes across fully: this is a song about second guessing, the questioning of how and where a relationship went wrong (“I won’t stop until the love lost all makes sense”). It’s the electronic sister of Morrissey‘s ‘The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get’, with similar borderline stalker tendencies (Cloud Boat’s “I’d never tell you but I live in your head, floating around like the thoughts in mine” vs. Moz’s “I am now a central part of your mind’s landscape, whether you care or do not”). Except this entry from Cloud Boat is far more catchy, with the synths creating glittery, shimmery shapes throughout, adding to the aural experience.

As rich-sounding as these two songs are, they stick out like sore thumbs from the rest of the album, which tends to run in a gentle and dreamy, xx / Beach House direction. ‘Hideaway’ is a uplifting, more positive tune than those of the 2010 Mercury Prize winners, and ‘All of My Years’ is slower and more contemplative than the Baltimore duo. Previously revealed tune ‘Carmine’, a remembrance of a childhood friend, is perfection in its minimalist, sweeping sumptuousness. With its brighter, less shadowy production, ‘Model of You’ is also more pop than ‘Book of Hours’, meaning that it will likely gain the act a wider following: for direct evidence of this, look to this NPR First Listen feature that ran last week, indicating the duo is well on their way to achieving a higher profile in America.

But this also means the duo had to sacrifice some of the quirkiness, some of the lovable rough edges of the previous one. Final track ‘Hallow’ (stream it at the bottom of this post) best bridges the best of old and new: it’s accessible, with Clarke’s soulful vocals, yet there are synth and percussive elements to keep things exciting. It’s a beautiful ending to the album, but it just seems a pity it took us 39 minutes to get there.

‘Model of You’ is definitely an interesting album: there are goats bleating on the James Blake-y ‘Portraits of Eyes’, for goodness sake. I just wonder how much greater the impression would have been on the listener if the song order had been rearranged to lead to a more compelling climax.

7/10

‘Model of You’, Cloud Boat’s second album, is out today on Apollo Records. For all Cloud Boat coverage on TGTF, including details of their October 2014 UK tour, go here.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

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TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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