Album Review

Beachcomber’s Windowsill

Beachcomber’s Windowsill

by Stornoway

6.3 / 10
29th September 2010

Reviewed by Brannavan Gnanalingam

Stornoway have built a bit of hype in England for their indie pop, being longlisted on a BBC’s Sound of 2010 Competition and releasing their debut album via iconic label 4AD. There’s always a danger with those who graduate through the British press hype machine, that the music doesn’t quite match the lofty heights they’ve already been placed. And while the album is certainly pleasant enough to listen to, it’s overall an unmemorable and coy album, and one which refuses to reveal any hidden layers beneath the surface level prettiness.

However, the album’s opener ‘Zorbing’ is a delight, with singer Brian Briggs’ boyish voice and the arrangements working beautifully, but it’s hard for anything subsequent to match the delights of the song. Other songs such as ‘Fuel Up’ and ‘Boats and Trains’ feature charming wee melodies and interesting arrangements. The second half of the album however loses its focus and drifts along without any real destination – ‘We Are the Battery Human’ is an awkward song – half-baked sub-Fleet Foxes harmonies and cringey lyrics, while ‘Watching Birds’ doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the album’s feel. ‘End of the Movie’ feels like Lord of the Rings in not knowing how to end when it should have finished long before, while closer ‘Long-Distance Lullaby’ drifts off almost like an apology.

Part of the album’s problem is how earnest it is – the lyrics, melodies and arrangements are for the most part pleasant. But that’s about it. The instrumentation feels a little too ad hoc rather than adding to the depth of the song, the lyrics lack the emotional bite and wit which distinguishes other similar sounding bands (e.g. Belle and Sebastian), and the melodies do have an unfortunate tendency to meander somewhat. Ultimately it’s a nice album, one which it wouldn’t hurt to listen, but with so little to actually bite into, it’s hard not to feel a little frustrated by the end product.

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