Album Review: Erland and the Carnival – Closing Time

By on Wednesday, 27th August 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

This week marks the release of ‘Closing Time’, the latest album from Erland and the Carnival. While the band are on an indie (Full Time Hobby), considering that many bands can’t even get past their first albums without getting dropped, losing interest in the endeavour or breaking up, being able to say you’ve put out your third LP to the wild is a major accomplishment. The band, featuring the strong songwriting partnership of Orkney frontman Erland Cooper and ex-Verve guitarist and keyboardist Simon Tong, show off in fine fashion on ‘Closing Time’ their best work yet.

While 2011’s ‘Nightingale’ saw the band stretching their artistic arms towards the fanciful, with songs that might have felt more at home soundtracking films and/or utilising quirky electronic sounds, this album’s strengths are the storytelling in each of the individual tracks and the emotional content therein. The album begins with the twinkly title track, with precious xylophone and keyboard notes. Is it a death knell for a release to announce, repeatedly, from the start, “closing time / time to get you out of my mind / time to get you out of my life / nothing lasts forever”? Not necessarily.

The feeling stands more as a motto for the collection of 10 songs, an indicator of what is to come. And when I used the words ’emotional content’ before, I meant it. There are some truly heart-wrenching moments on this album. ‘Closing Time’ expresses regret over a failed relationship and also possibly death (“please don’t talk about me when I’m gone / I’ll keep to the shadows after the light has gone”). Despite its upbeat tempo and seemingly gay guitar work, Cooper’s self-deprecation is on display in ‘Wrong’, as Cooper insists he’s “plain wrong” and begs for someone “can you help me?” as strings sympathetically hum.

Previous single ‘Quiet Love’, which features backing vocals and guitar for surprise guest Paul Weller, is a study in loneliness, a lilting paean to waiting for the Right One to come along but in the meantime, it’s perfectly okay to find peace in being alone. On standout ‘That’s the Way It Should Have Begun (But It’s Hopeless)’ Cooper might not be as witty as Neil Hannon, nor would the Divine Comedy mastermind be likely to use electronic chords or effects, but the feeling of hopelessness in a relationship being played out over a pop melody is very Hannon-esque.

The other major theme on this album is mortality. While touched upon on the title track, closing number ‘Daughter’ best exemplifies this. Written with a half bottle of whiskey and shortly after Cooper became a father for the first time, his process to describe leaving this world is an attempt to reassure (“just before I say goodbye / loving you won’t die”). Of the song, Cooper says, “I was trying to write and record the simplest song that can say a number of deeper things while saying something completely obvious.” The song is actually not that simple: while it features a repetitive but music box-like soothing piano melody, it features some looped backing vocals interspersed throughout that I guessed were the band’s attempt to mimic the disorientation one feels when nearing the end. The result is a song that is beautiful but also unsettling, unearthly.

Also haunting is ‘They’re Talking About You Again’, a conversation about “a different kind of love” (presumably homosexuality) and whether we will arrive in Heaven exalted (“will there be stars in my crown? / the evening sun’s going down / are we blessed in the mansions of rest? / will there be stars in my crown?”). In the tune, the guitars are suitably downbeat, as are the descending piano notes that are alternately forlorn and beautiful.

In the face of all this darkness and depth, some lighter moments feel out of place. ‘I Am Joan’ was originally titled humorously in honour of Tong’s nickname of ‘Joan of Arc’ for Cooper and sounds more like the prog folk rock band they began as 6 years ago; it comes across as enjoyable, but it’s fluff nevertheless. ‘Birth of a Nation’ is poptastic with its bright synths and marching gait, so there’s no question why this was chosen as a single. But it’s lightweight compared to some of its song brethren on ‘Closing Time’. Still, as a whole, this album proves Erland and the Carnival can write and record serious, yet touching, beautiful stories with engaging melodies. They also aren’t afraid of putting their heart on their sleeve or broaching some serious topics in popular song. And on all three counts, they should be truly commended.

8.5/10

Erland and the Carnival‘s third album ‘Closing Time’ is out now on Full Time Hobby. The band will be on tour in the UK in October. If you’re quick, you can hear the band live on BBC 6music iPlayer on a session they recorded with Marc Riley on the 6th of August.

Tags: , , , ,

One Response

[…] ‘Daughter’ Where to find it: ‘Closing Time’ (2014, Full Time Hobby) Performed by: Erland and the Carnival Words by: Erland […]

Leave Your Response

* Name, Email, Comment are Required

 
 
 

About Us

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

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

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.

All MP3s are posted with the permission of the artists or their representatives and are for sampling only. Like the music? Buy it. If you want a track removed, email us and we'll sort it ASAP.

E-mail us  |  RSS Feed   RSS Feed  

Learn More About Us