Friday, September 25, 2015

Review: The Sparkle in Our Flaws by Chantal Acda

When a character in historical documentary series Game of Thrones says that "winter is coming", the words are usually meant as a warning. Jon Snow isn't just making idle chit-chat when he drops the catchphrase that launched a thousand hoodies; he's reminding everyone that darkness, death, and ice zombies are just around the corner.

I mention this because Chantal Acda's The Sparkle in Our Flaws strikes me as a 'winter is coming' sort of album...but not, I'd like to make clear, in the Westerosi sense. These eight songs conjure up images of a far lovelier winter, where sunlight shimmers on frozen lakes and everything feels crisp and fresh and invigorating.

The first track, Homes, is perhaps the best example of what I'm talking about. It's an enchanting opener that sounds like a frozen sea teeming with wooden boats, each one filled with voyagers shielding their eyes from the sun and breathing mist into the morning air. "Our homes were built in our heads," they reassure themselves, knowing that whatever land they find will eventually feel just as much like home as the places they've left behind.

The Sparkle in Our Flaws is a uniformly gorgeous album that nevertheless covers a lot of musical ground as it slowly unfolds. The Other Way features a wonderful saxophone solo that effortlessly evades all the assumptions you probably made just now when I used the words 'saxophone solo'; elsewhere, Still We Guess has a beautiful violin part that reminds me of the best parts of Leonard Cohen's latest album, while the album's title track sounds like it could have played over the end credits of a Lord of the Rings film:

Ideally, The Sparkle in Our Flaws should be listened to whilst navigating the kind of icy ocean that I described a couple of paragraphs ago, but failing that, I've found that it also sounds splendid when you're a) in the bath, or b) looking out the window on a cold, rainy morning and enjoying the fact that you don't have to go outdoors today.

The Sparkle in Our Flaws is out today on Glitterhouse Records. Visit Chantal Acda's website to find out where you can get your hands on it.

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