For the longest time I’ve been a huge fan of Elbow and they are a band I never had on the radar, until I listened to their amazing album Cast of Thousands 13 years ago. Since that moment I knew this was going to be one of my favorite bands and they have delivered with every single album they’ve released.
Of note I do have to mention one very important fact about this band, they are one of the few groups fully committed to making a functional album instead of a collection of good songs. Each album has its own ebb and flow, its own identity within the Elbow universe and spoken with their own language.
Last year Radiohead released A Moon Shaped Pool which was an astoundingly beautiful album. With Little Fictions, Elbow offers us a slice of beauty of their own, but unlike the melancholy of Radiohead’s work, there is a bright and hopeful aspect to Elbow’s music that you can’t help but feel as if the day gets brighter with a listen. It is a masterfully crafted album, with bright layers of strings, keys, drums, bass, guitars, and wonder. Although I can say the same about the Take of and Landing of Everything, I must admit that this album is a lot more well-rounded and every song begs to be listened.
As for song sequence, it’s brilliant and feels right. For a song-by-song breakdown, read below:
Magnificent (She says): a wonderful winding song, it starts with a wonderful groove but doesn’t take long to spread its wings and give a big pull into the sky. The strings in this song are a wonderful compliment and as always, Guy Garvey is on point with lyrics and vocal delivery. It’s a song that inspires hope and shows the power of one person in this world, even if it’s just to make us smile.
Gentle Storm: the groove in this song harkens to late 80’s songs (thinking INXS). It is one of those songs that doesn’t have to be cryptic to get its point across. Just a gorgeous song to start the day to for me and yes, that does include some hip shimmying and happy dancing while I repeat the lyrics: “Fall in love with me, every day.”
Trust the Sun: a song that harkens a bit to the album Leaders of the Free World. It has that mechanical whimsical funk that only this band can play before the piano eases in beautifully along with the guitar. Lyrically, this has to be one of the richest songs on the album: “The Napkin inks the world away.” But musically it is such a meticulously crafted beauty you can't help but wonder how the hell they did that.
All Disco: Such a happy and pretty song. It’s the type of song fitting for a morning in an alternate world where everyone is a fairy and still remembers to smile and say good morning. Another lush lyrical beauty of a song. It’s a musicalized poem designed to start the day on the right foot.
Head for Supplies: What begins as a bright echo laced guitar riff dances with the bassline before the drums and vocals ease in. And yes, yet another beautiful song, this time with a chorus that really adds a layer to this song like watching a flower blossom in repeat.
Firebrand and Angel: Handclaps and funky drum lines start you up before some nice fat piano notes stomp in. That the piano is that aggressive while the guitars and bass are so subtle show that Elbow has a collective chemistry that will not happen elsewhere. And the lyrics are some sort of bright noir funk: "Wishing on you got me a hatful of rain/ And three lost years/ When you’re in her mirror you don’t even feel / The tears that fall." Not often is an album as worthy to read as it is to listen.
K2: Another mellow song that benefits from vocals with delay and bright sunshine music. I like this one as well, but if I had to choose one song I don’t adore, it’s this one. So we’ll have to settle for just loving it :D.
Montparnasse: “Your heart could easy power three of me / Should my love get lost in the delivery”….. that. Such a deep felt song with a simple piano line that offers quotable line after quotable line. When they want to be simple and hit you in the gut, Elbow are VERY capable of doing so.
Little fictions: this song starts with as much opera drama as you can imagine only to ease into another funky Tom Waits like groove. Then the song opens up and gives Garvey ample space to punch in the chorus as if he’s screaming to the heavens. The amount of sonic texture this song has is amazing and so many feels from all sides. Just gorgeous.
Kindling: for a closer, Elbow brings a beautiful song to share a drink with friends. There’s some regret but fond memories and love will help us through to the sunshine in this chorusless song.
This is a relaxed masterpiece and Elbow are relaxed masters. They always push themselves, it feels as if they have something to prove but rather than tackling those challenges with anger and angst, it’s with hope, camaraderie, and a lot of love.
Enjoy with a cup of tea either alone or with the company of somebody you care about.
Peace, love, and maki rolls.