Friday, February 28, 2014

Comfort Songs

If you're, like, freakishly obsessed with The AlbumWall, you may remember that I briefly mentioned Cloud's Comfort Songs in this blog. That mini-review was written after listening to only one or two tracks from this album; since then, I've had a few full runs at it, so I figured it was high time I gave Comfort Songs a proper blogging.

The title of this album promises a lot, but Comfort Songs isn't comfort music in the same way as macaroni cheese is comfort food. An easy pleasure this ain't; in fact, it's quite a difficult listen at first, with fragmented song structures and a sprawling, hour-long runtime that makes it kind of hard to digest.

And as excellent as they often are, Cloud's lyrics do offer some conspicuously uncomfortable truths. Observe:

"Does the phantom get you up...or do you?"
Frére Jacques and Me

"I don't care much how I spend my days, no. They'll all seem rad in nostalgia's haze."
- Blurry & Bright

"A message for my kids: know that when each day shall end, that means you've one less little day to live."
- Halley's Comet

Yikes. So where exactly is the comfort in Comfort Songs?

Simple: it's in the sound. Jumping into this album may be a little daunting at first, but like a canyon full of pillows, it's soft and fluffy no matter which part of it you land in. Even the shouty-shouty-cymbal-smashy bits sound strangely blissed-out:

Those aren't the best bits, though. The best bits are the softer moments, when Cloud and his band get into a nice melodic rut and stay with it for a while. The first half of Cars & It's Autumn (the Polyphonic Spree-ish opening track) is a good example, as is the aforementioned Frére Jacques and Me:


But my favourite track is Stomach Pit, which opens with a beautiful string part over a gentle, pushing rhythm and spends the next four minutes or so building to a tumultuous climax. If I had to describe Cloud's sound in one pithy, 'stick it on the CD case' aphorism, I'd say that he's like Conor Oberst in a fog of candy floss, and Stomach Pit is probably the best example of that (right down to the soft reprise at the end of the song, which is very reminiscent of Make War by Bright Eyes):

If all of that sounds vaguely up your street, I'd definitely recommend giving Comfort Songs a try. I'd wager that you won't be blown away on your first listen - trying to navigate this album is a bit like trying to swallow a brick - but stick with it and it will all fall into place. You'll find the album on Audio Antihero's bandcamp page.

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