Tuesday, October 15, 2013

WMP Nominees - Little Arrow

The winner of the 2013 Welsh Music Prize will be announced this Thursday. Not familiar with the nominees? Neither was I, until this happened. I've still got two albums to cover, mind, so we'd better crack on...

State of You and Me
Reviewing albums in haste - as I have been doing over the last few weeks - doesn't always make for good reading. I downloaded Wild Wishes first thing on Monday morning, and while I did manage to squeeze in a fair few listens before I started blogging about it, my impression of the album is still rather, uh, impressionistic. I don't really know anything about Little Arrow yet, and I haven't had a chance to look into the story behind this LP, if in fact there is one. I do know that The State of You and Me was (sort of) the lead single, but that's only because I reviewed the damn thing when it came out.

So, having spent but a morning with Wild Wishes, what impression am I left with? A rather post-apocalyptic one, actually, but don't worry. These songs don't form some terrifying, fiery vision of things to come; instead, they show us a world in which technology and modern civilisation have more or less disappeared, and humanity has reverted to a much simpler, much lovelier state. It's more Swiss Family Robinson than The Road.

Little Arrow sound like they've wandered away from the end of the world, bumped into each other on some secluded, windswept beach, and decided to sing a few songs together. Lead Us Now (perhaps the best closing track on the shortlist) is the only song on this album that really goes all-out on the instrumentation, letting rip with brass instruments and electric guitars that are absent elsewhere as far as I can tell. Pretty much everything else is acoustic, and this gives the album a pure, 'round-the-campfire honesty that's really quite nice. A lot of the vocals are sung as a group, and even though I complained about this technique in my February review, I think it actually fits quite well here.

My favourite track is probably Wash (and no, of course it's not on YouTube). It starts out in The Diary of Me territory, once again bringing Bagpuss to mind, but then it starts to pick up steam. And then it calms down again for a lovely little rockpool of a chorus ("You were buried in the wash"), and then it seems like the band aren't sure what to do next, but fortunately they find their way back to that nimble little verse thing before bringing it back for another chorus. It's all quite understated, actually, but it's a great example of this album's strengths.

As I said, though, it isn't on YouTube, so instead here's a live version of the one that comes after it:

So...is it better than Furniture?
No, but I will concede that Wild Wishes beats Furniture hands down in the nooks and crannies department. The Race Horses album is like a rollercoaster, taking the listener on a thrilling, twisty-turny ride that's great fun but over all too quickly. Little Arrow simply place us on a path and tell us to find our own way through the album, and while it's not as instantly gratifying as the rollercoaster route - with loose structures and varying tempos, a lot of these songs sound disjointed and a little all-over-the-place to begin with - it does afford a lot more opportunity for exploration. As I mentioned before, I've still only the faintest idea of what this album really is, and I suspect that I'll still be hearing new things in Wild Wishes long after the head-rush effect of Furniture has worn off.

Only one album left, guys! Come back on Wednesday for Week of Pines.

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