This has got to be the first time since The Proclaimers that I’ve heard a Scottish accent at the forefront of an album. How refreshing!
The intriguingly-titled My Fiction Department is up first. Naylor’s gentle lilt weaves through simple instrumentation of bright, prettily-picked guitar and a constant-but-thin organ in a brittle, delicate production that gets warmed up by a female harmony vocal part way through. ‘I’m hiding in my fiction department / And I’ll make you believe’, goes the outro. It’s a declaration of intent at the top of a lyrical and lyric-ful album that Naylor is determined to make good on.
I Really Don’t Want To Miss Out is more driven and urgent, with some low-level percussion and plenty of background ambience present in the capture. The Naylor vocal steps up a gear here, flicking effortlessly up into his higher register to drive the emotion and sense of yearning home. The lyric comes thick and fast and you are drawn into some great observational situations focussed on the very 21st century condition of FOMO.
Singing very much from his throat, Naylor’s vocal is intimate and direct and warm. Guitars are mixed high and hard left and right, and are very tight. On Waterfall in the Hills, Naylor’s lead vocal is again backed by a female harmony voice. The choice of her harmony starts off spikier than you might expect, then resolves into a warmer colour for the listener. It’s a good choice as it catches the ear immediately, and provides progression for the song’s musical narrative. Again, there’s plenty of ambient noise at the top and tail of the track, suggesting a live or homespun capture…
Violin arrives to introduce us to next track, Newhaven Harbour Blues. I love the fact that the melody it plays instantly suggests the scansion of the song’s title. Will it prove to be the case and play along with a vocal? In terms of vocal arrangement, Naylor harmonises with himself this time, and we get a piano voice, too, as the track develops. There is ‘human’ all over this track. The violin performance has lovely dynamics and the track ends to the creaks of instruments, the breath of the players and the faint tick of the metronome they were following. So, looks like at the very least some parts were played live – making the whole caboodle even more interesting.
Learn To Fly is a beautiful little song, rhythmically restless and relentless, and over too soon. Guitar noodles away in the background as well as thrumming the chords with skill. Lots of harmonised vocals and a great message.
Things turn more wistful and spacious on One Thing on My Mind. Melodically, some of the vocal choices here recall Morrissey’s topline work and they stand out from the other tracks for that reason.
Lyrics get busy again in Just Like You – but the limber Naylor is up to the task. As is the guitar work, tripping effortlessly along with gusto. The playing isn’t too flashy, just wonderfully efficient, pinning down the parts. The mix has some vicious decisions here, really pushing parts hard left and right to exploit the full stereo range – and by doing so creates yet more flavours from the same set of ingredients.
‘The storms have shifted’ in Looking For Silver, apparently. Here, the guitar does a wonderful Q&A with itself in alternate speakers as the song builds to an epic conclusion, and creating another delightful soundscape in the process.
Ocean Drive is a wonderfully straightforward song – direct and sweetly-sung. An accordion fills in a pad of sound behind the uplifting guitar arrangement. As the cliché has it, this is the single – it’s so immediately accessible, and over too soon.
And so the album continues, pontificating and meditating on all things life: The Days Don’t Know and Travel With the Tide both seeming to offer an acceptance of the way things are; the status quo – and that there’s little we can do but ‘go with it’.
But then we get to the closing Don’t Get Stranded – an epic build of a track that’s something of a cautionary tale about being left behind or perhaps failing to surmount an obstacle. Lyrically simple – basically the title as an instruction – it repeats itself like no other track here. The music gets more frantic and urgent through the build and the vocal reaches up to… a bittersweet ending.
Stories of Another Time, then. Which time – is it looking forward or back? It actually doesn’t matter. ‘Time has no connection to the life we’re living’ is a standout lyric from Just Like You – is that a clue to the meaning of the album title? Or maybe while we are listening to this other-worldly collection of musings, we are transported to an unreal, other time – a space where such thought and musing is not only allowed, but encouraged.
The choice of instruments and production make this a timeless collection, after all – and it’s a joyful listening experience, with a vibrant, beating heart that welcomes you in and has reserved you a seat by the fire. I’m so pleased with it that I’ve even forgiven Naylor for not doubling a vocal singing the song title with the massive violin hook in Newhaven Harbour Blues!
Check out Adam Naylor’s music via ReverbNation.