ELBOW – ” Flying Dream 1 “

Posted: December 3, 2021 in MUSIC

Artists that have successfully and consistently achieved both quantity and quality across their recorded output are an increasingly endangered species these days. Elbow, however, unequivocally qualify as this rare breed of band. Since their formal introduction 20 years ago with their Mercury Prize shortlisted debut album “Asleep In The Back” (2001) through to their most recent triumph in 2019’s “Giants Of All Sizes“, the Manchester-bred quartet comprised of Guy Garvey, Pete Turner, and brothers Craig and Mark Potter have crafted revelatory records possessed of grace and gravitas in abundance.

Elbow delivered their heaviest album yet with 2019’s “Giants of All Sizes”, and now seem to have dialled things back for “Flying Dream 1″, each mellow track seems to diffuse into the next, and frontman Guy Garvey’s voice is a crooning comfort, as unhurried as the songs themselves. Even on their ninth studio album, Elbow’s lyrics are in tip-top shape, the more subdued sound allowing them the attention they deserve, “The Seldom Seen Kid“, the lushly orchestrated lead single “The Seldom Seen Kid” pays homage to the band’s fellow Manchester musician Bryan Clancy, who passed away in 2006. The multi-textured, organ-imbued ode to Garvey’s son “What Am I Without You” closes the album, with the proud father finding the purest form of solace and self-renewal in caring for another.

Propelled by Garvey’s signature penchant for the poetic and his bandmates’ enveloping soundscapes, Elbow’s songs traverse the deepest pangs of the human heart. They unravel as radiant reveries steeped in romance and recollection, nudging us, the listeners, to look further inward.

“We realized we were making a record free of the usual creative guidelines,” Garvey explains in an official statement. “We love patient, quiet, whole albums like the last Talk Talk records or John Martyn’s Solid Air and Bless the Weather, PJ Harvey’s Is This Desire?, Chet Baker Sings, the Blue Nile’s “Hats”, Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love & Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks.

We’ve always written songs like this, but it felt natural to make an album that focuses on the gentler side of our music. There have been challenges, but through them writing together remotely was a lifeline. It’s bruised and wistful, nostalgic, and thankful. We’re so lucky that all our family and friends are safe. It’s about that love.”

The soothing “Is It A Bird” extends this imagery, replete with well-placed saxophone flourishes, while the shimmering love song “Six Words” reinforces Garvey’s ability to convey tenderness with substance, while avoiding the overly saccharine and superficially sentimental. “I’m part of everything again,” Garvey confides. “Look who loves me / Look who loves me, I know / I know the view from up on top of the world / Now I know your songbird soul / You bring my hands to my heart / You fling all my plans to the wind.”

True to the album’s name, the aerial motif is a pervasive and poignant one throughout the expanse of “Flying Dream 1″, signifying feelings of liberation as one seeks to escape—or at least navigate—the increasingly heavy weight of the world. The piano-driven title track introduces this recurring theme, as Garvey thoughtfully recalls his family upbringing in evocative reflections like “Fireflies rise / Spiralling up ’til we blanket the skies / Every neighbourhood sleepy wee dreamers / Over the hills at the edge of my knowledge.”

Unveiled today, the group’s ninth studio affair “Flying Dream 1” stays true to this proven pedigree. As has been par for the course for many musicians over the past 20 months, the project’s genesis took lockdown-mandated root in the respective home studios of the band’s four members. They subsequently convened at the Brighton Theatre Royal to refine and record the ten-track album, the experience of which was filmed for a complementary documentary. Relative to its immediate precursor (the aforementioned “Giants Of All Sizes“, which Garvey labelled “a dark record”), “Flying Dream 1″ captures a band that is arguably in a less troubled, more grateful state of mind, taking stock of the brighter sides of life in 2021. The album’s standout moments appear in its latter half, beginning with the atmospheric, stargazing stunner of a tune “Come On, Blue,” which finds the earnest Garvey astutely claiming that “Love transcends anything that ever ends.” The gently propulsive “The Only Road” unfolds as an anthem of self-recognition and contentment, as Garvey admits “I’ve never been so sure that I was right where I should be in my whole life.”

Elbow’s 9th studio album ‘Flying Dream 1’, featuring the singles ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’, ‘Six Words’ and title track ‘Flying Dream 1’ released today.

Recorded at Brighton’s Theatre Royal, the album is available on CD, vinyl

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