Epic and raw
Dan's warm and slightly cracked vocals are the star of this inspiring and delicately epic record, which is classically indie/folk at its core in a Belle And Sebastian, or perhaps Willy Mason way (well, those are the two names that quickly spring to mind). At times it's also dreamy and experimental in a Radiohead style, but it's so subtle and organic that you are never taken out of the moment.
Those two ends of the spectrum make an appearance right at the start of the album. On the wordily titled opener 'About A Helpful As You Can Be Without Being Helpful At All' you are treated to an epic build of strings and horns followed by an upbeat tune reminiscent of the aforementioned Belle and Sebastian, this is classic alt-indie at its best, however a curve ball follows in the shape of the distortion doused 'How Darwinian' which holds acoustic strumming beneath ever changing rhythms and dreamy echoes- such a great track.
'Post War Blues' really brings to mind Willy Mason vocally and also through the simpler arrangement at the start- still there are hints of distortion washes and those string sounds fill every available space in the background with warm noise, but this tune defies your expectation and soon picks up to a real foot stomping section. There is so much diversity here, from the previously mentioned indie numbers to the dreamy and the emotional and then gritty tracks like 'Rows Of Houses' with its rousing vocal backing you stay interested until the last note rings out.
As mentioned at the start of this review the vocals make this record; slightly raw and very real sounding, they suit the tone of these tunes so well and really get under your skin; often bringing a shiver of satisfaction especially on the moodier numbers like 'If I Am Dead' and 'Leaves, Trees, Forest' where they are beautifully understated but still emotionally moving. A record you want to revisit many times- totally engaging.