Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Guillemots - Walk The River (Geffen)

It’s perfectly normal to have half an opinion formed before consuming new music, but the third release from Guillemots makes the situation a unique one. Between their disappointing track record with albums as a band and last year's astonishingly good solo effort from frontman Fyfe Dangerfield, the expectations are simultaneously high and low: a rather extraordinary position to be in. But, as Walk The River will demonstrate, Guillemots are a rather extraordinary band.

The crushing disappointment that was 2006 debut Through The Windowpane may have come as a result of the ludicrously high positioning of the proverbial bar set by its lead single Trains To Brazil. So you'll forgive us for approaching Walk The River with serious caution, given the two immense trailer singles: the boldly random title track and the soaring choruses and thumping beats of The Basket. Mercifully, perhaps even surprisingly, the remainder of the album does a remarkable job of matching – perhaps even surpassing – its tasters so far.

Walk The River is, peculiarly, almost cohesive in its incohesiveness – the simple sing-song melodies chased by intricate, gloriously weird mazes of sound. The meat-and-potatoes indie sensibilities backed by angelic harmonies and electronic shimmers. The epic serenity of Sometimes I Remember Wrong, complete with quietly dramatic two-and-a-half-minute intro, is the polar opposite of the speedy, assured Ice Room.

Aside from a couple of brief occasions where momentum is lost during slower moments, it's nigh on impossible to fault such a lovingly crafted album. Content-wise, Walk The River is deep, emotive, stirring stuff. But the aptitude for creating an intense, seductive hook creates an immediate connection, and from thereon in, it's game over for the listener: for 65 minutes, you belong to the Guillemots. And while previous albums may have been patchy at best, they make perfect sense in hindsight, depicting the long road to achieving an album of this towering standard.

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