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Stornoway Sail Metaphorical Sea Of Life's Journey

4AD Records

Stornoway take their name from the Scottish seaport town, a place that the Oxford band admits to having never visited when they chose it. They liked it because it seemed distant, and the nautical connotations are perfectly apt for the themes explored on their latest album Tales From Terra Firma.

These songs are like small voyages, too lengthy for pop but too modest to be considered epic. Lyrically the album is very story oriented, and the plots are propelled forward with ramshackle momentum.

Right in the middle there’s a one-two punch of ear-wormy perfection. “Hook, Line, Sinker” embraces the idiom it’s named for by being such appetizing bait. The jazzy guitar line and swirling percussion escalate into burst-after-burst of energy.

There’s so much going on: horns, keyboards, a literal kitchen-sink approach as Bavarian spoons smack happily in the all-in track “Knock Me On The Head.” The songwriting vocabulary of Brian Briggs is dense, and the ease with which he breezes through those syllables should make this song an “auto-include” on playlists for the entire summer.

At the conclusion of this sprint the album gets much slower. Like the metaphorical sea vessel has fallen apart and the remaining songs are the survivors clutching to floating debris. They demand more of the lyrics and here Briggs delivers, including this nugget that I think a lot of liberal arts majors will completely get: “And I’m a scientist with far too many metaphors/ and far too little data to conclude in time.”

And that’s just the kind of itch this album soothes. Nice enough to soundtrack a season of your life and clever enough to work its way into your brain. 

Stornoway's Tales From Terra Firma is out on on 4AD Records.

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