Thursday, January 29, 2009
Top 10 Albums of 2008: 9. ELBOW- The Seldom Seen Kid
Elbow are a band who understand the importance of the LP as an artform. Lead singer Guy Garvey has railed against iTunes for not allowing bands to lock their albums (so individual tracks cannot be sold separate from their parent record),and listening to The Seldom Seen Kid, it’s not hard to see why they put such stock on treating a long-player like a cohesive entity rather than as a collection of songs. For a start, it features immaculate examples of how to open and close an album: the sublime ‘Starlings’ punctuates its gently chiming ambience with choral harmonies and short orchestral bursts, the track swelling slowly and building tension expertly as Garvey delivers a typically poetic lyric; while curtain-closer ‘Friend of Ours’ is a bleak, poignant, unspeakably beautiful tribute to late friend of the band Brian Glancy, who died tragically in 2006. Both are pieces of music that stop you dead in your tracks and stay with you long after you stop listening, something that Elbow have proven themselves masters at after four top-class albums. In between these two bookends, the record takes in the bluesy, lurching prison-gang-chant of ‘Grounds for Divorce’, the desolate atmospherics of ‘Some Riot’, the stately sweep of ‘Mirrorball’ and ‘Weather to Fly’, and the genuinely uplifting mini-symphony ‘One Day Like This’. Threading it all together are Garvey’s frequently superb lyrics, conveying tragedy and triumph from the minutiae of everyday life, and the attentive sequencing which emphasises the peaks and troughs (in terms of mood, not quality) of the music. A deserved winner of the Mercury Prize: sometimes the good guys do win.