In the Post #141: Stornoway preview third album with first single ‘The Road You Didn’t Take’

By on Thursday, 8th January 2015 at 1:00 pm
 

Last night on Steve Lamacq’s drivetime show on BBC 6music, longtime friends of TGTF Stornoway greeted the new year and their fans with a brand new song, the first single off their third album. Gathering enough money for recording the new album and hiring an outside producer (and for the first time on a Stornoway album) was easy: fans helped them meet their PledgeMusic campaign‘s target in just 4 days, and at the time of this writing, pledges are nearing four and half times the original goal. On production duties on the new album is Gil Norton, who produced such rock masterpieces as Pixies‘ ‘Doolittle’ and several of their other LPs, and Foo Fighters‘ first album as a band, ‘The Colour and the Shape’.

When I heard Norton’s name come up, my stomach started tying up in knots. Stornoway aren’t a straight rock band, so how on earth is this going to work? Is this really a good idea? When they released 2013’s ‘You Don’t Know Anything’, a mini-album of outtakes from second album ‘Tales from Terra Firma’, I’d already begun to wonder if they were stepping away from the simpler virtues of 4AD debut ‘Beachcomber’s Windowsill’ in favour of a more impactful, louder sound. Thankfully, my fears – so far – have been unfounded upon the release of ‘The Road You Didn’t Take’ to the wild. First impression: whatever happened to that band Fleet Foxes? Have they gone for good? Because if they have, Stornoway’s come to take their place.

A short bit of complex guitar played quickly begins the song, and as I looked at the single art – a bird diving headfirst through a manhole-shaped window and into the urban landscape – it made me think of the way sun dapples the surface of a river as the water ripples downstream. No time to contemplate life any further though, as you are met straight away with an massive harmony of the band members’ voices. Huge. Smartly, Norton chose to keep frontman Brian Briggs’ tenor voice front and centre, the primary focal point with just a slight yet perfect echo effect. The voices of Briggs’ bandmates and the myriad of instruments in the background bolster, not muddy, the strength of the main vocals, with prominent drum beats and crashing cymbals adding drama while also not taking away from the vocal line. The end result is gorgeous, sounding richer than anything they’d have been able to do in the past on their own.

The song itself is a homage to the famous Robert Frost poem ‘The Road Not Taken’, which just so happens to be one of my favourite poems. Ever. The voice of the poem tells of a choice he made at an earlier moment in his life where he had the option of two paths to take. In the song, the Oxford band have moved the story high up on a mountaintop where one can look down at where you might have gone, had you taken a different path. Briggs also continues the story of the poem with “sometimes when you get to the summit / you will see another hill to climb”, representing worthy ambition. The song may be short (barely 3 minutes to be radio friendly) but gets its point across well: although you can look behind you at the choices you might have made but did not, there are better, higher places for you to go from here.

The bird artwork is a not so subtle nod to singer Briggs’ academic and scientific training (he has a degree with ornithology), but its use here is intriguing in contrast to the cover artwork for ‘Tales from Terra Firma’, a cartoon image of a child in a bed as if in a boat at sea. As the title of the album has yet to be revealed, I suspect this image of wildlife beauty facing unfamiliar territory, and with determination of seeing things through, will play a role in the story the album will tell. It might also be an appropriate metaphor for the changes the band themselves saw themselves going through in making album #3 in a totally new way?

9/10

You can pre-order Stornoway’s third album now on their PledgeMusic page; the band explain their PledgeMusic project in the video below. Stornoway have previously announced a UK tour for April and May; all the details are this way. For our past coverage on TGTF on the band, 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.

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.

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