Tuesday, 18 February 2014
Recommended music: 'Love To Give' by Halls
This is another album where I've taken my time writing the review, as this is definitely a record to spend some quality time with. Just over a year since his debut album 'Ark' (during which time he managed to fit in a spell modelling for Hedi Slimane in Paris), Sam Howard has delivered a fantastically warm and emotional record. Although at times it feels melancholic, the overall atmosphere is one of positivity and hope. Quiet, reflective moments mix with tracks that build to crescendos, uplifting trumpets the rise to a valiant cry above the music, and a couple of noisy moments that even Mogwai would be proud of.
Musically the emphasis has switched to 'real' instruments and away from electronics. This, along with the recorded ambience of the theatre in Woolwich where the tracks were laid down, give the album an feeling of warm, crackly ambience. With each listen it draws you tighter into its warm embrace, enveloping you and disarming you, and making you fall in love with it again and again.
With a record this good that fits together so well as one listening piece it's hard to pick out highlights, but for me the best bits are probably at the start, the middle and the end. The opening title track 'Love To Give' is a great introduction to the feel of the record, while the centrepiece 'Aria' fills you full of melodies and then throws you off track with a discordant saxophone, before coming back with driving drums and stirring strings. Meanwhile closer 'Body Eraser / Avalanche' is 9 minutes of pure joy and exhilaration as it turns from an almost mournful hymn to a drum-bashing frenzy with layers of guitars and sound.
One top tip for you - if you're going to buy this on a physical format then get it from Rough Trade as their version comes with a 7-track bonus disc with some great extra tracks, including covers of song by Cat Power and The Beach Boys.
You can stream the whole album below.