By Nick Erickson, Staff writer
The English alt-rock band Elbow has had an impressive discography in their two and a half decade lifespan. After their 2014 release, “The Take Off and Landing of Everything,” things deviated from the norm when lead singer Guy Garvey got married and drummer and founding member Richard Jupp left the band. Now, with their seventh studio album, “Little Fictions,” listeners can consider these changes a rebirth for the band, now more cohesive and melodious than ever before.
On “Little Fictions,” Garvey uses his newfound love as the central lyric topic. In traditional Elbow fashion, the tracks are primarily built around the ingenious use of loop pedals. Layers of piano and fuzzy synths, electric guitar squabble and soft, yet ambitious drumming are ever present. While Garvey’s lyricism is clearly lovesick, it is more sincere than in spouts of sugary infatuation like many other artists.
Opener “Magnificent” kicks off with a guitar and keyboard hook that is reminiscent of The Cure. Garvey’s voice is lower than most popular artists today, but his timbre is so rich and smooth, it’s a refreshing contrast from the herd. “The world that doesn’t even know how much it needs this little girl,” he sings. The innovative use of Chris Potter’s various keyboard patches on this number, as well as throughout the entirety of the record, is a selling-point, always filling the void.
The tropical vibes of “Gentle Storm” carry listeners to a distant beach via resonating piano chords and beats. “All Disco” flows serenely as both piano rolls and the delicate pulse of a guitar carry listeners through the soundscape.
The minimalistic “Head for Supplies” showcases Garvey’s silky voice over a beautiful guitar loop and light cymbal taps. The lush harmonies of respective guitarist and bassist Mark Potter and Pete Turner blend with Garvey to create one of the most remarkable performances of the album.
From the bass-octave piano driven “Firebrand & Angel” to the ‘80s synth-wave atmosphere of “K2,” the band continually brings in instrumentation that feels lighthearted and thought-provoking, especially when coupled with Garvey’s vocabulary. Closer “Kindling” starts with an unusual, yet invoking drumbeat and a wall of ambience, as Garvey sings of how, though traveling will distance himself from his love, he will still long for and return to her. “I will be far away for a while, but my heart’s staying put,” Garvey sings and a feature from the Halle Orchestra’s string ensemble crescendos, before fading out into a myriad of persistent chords.
“Little Fictions” is Elbow’s most upbeat and optimistic endeavor yet. With its bright compositions and Garvey’s undeniable charm, this album proves that some things truly get better with age. As Garvey’s romance flourishes, we can expect the same for Elbow’s commercial success.