Monday, July 26th, 2010
An introduction to Stornoway
J J BullockHave we officially christened a “song of the Summer” for 2010 yet? Do we even have enough of a monoculture anymore that a consensus on such a thing is even possible? If so – or if not – I would like to nominate “Zorbing”, the lead track and single from Beachcomber’s Windowsill, the debut album from Oxford, England’s Stornoway. It’s a simple but instantly catchy tune about the metaphorical joys of rolling around London in a giant hamster ball – I think – that’s elevated from good to great with a couple of key flourishes: the low “whoaaa” harmonies in the chorus and the jubilant horns in the bridge that hearken to Belle & Sebastian’s finest moments.
And said Scots aren’t a bad reference point for Stornoway in general, at least as far as articulating the aesthetic of their orchestrally-appointed folk-pop. But while they’re clearly capable of wide-eyed upbeatness, as “Zorbing” and the follow-up single “I Saw You Blink” clearly evidence, Stornoway’s hearts are inherently heavier and Brian Briggs’ vocals more inclined to drama – so maybe it’s to their benefit that Briggs doesn’t seem to have much luck in love; it makes for great lyrical fodder. His bandmates back him up with all the standard pop band accouterments, but close listening shows there’s a lot of detail hidden in the nooks and crannies of their seemingly austere sound – pianos, kazoos, strings, Morse code, church bells… and it’s these touches, like those aforementioned little details in “Zorbing”, that elevate Stornoway above the pack. If your Summer consists of getting your heart broken or wishing you were getting your heart broken whilst lounging on grassy hills (and maybe watching people roll down said hills in giant plastic balls) then Stornoway should be, if not your soundtrack, then at least in your playlist.
Drowned In Sound has a feature interview with the band. Beachcomber’s Windowsill is out in the UK right now and digitally in North America. It will be out in physical form on this continent on August 10. So far their American itinerary has consisted of an expeditionary gig in New York earlier this month, but promises are being made of a full incursion this Fall. Update: The album is now up to stream at Spinner.