elbow – Giants of All Sizes (Album Review)

elbow – Giants of All Sizes (Album Review)

The band that many observers claim to have immensely inspired Coldplay and whose music exudes the same limestone-rock, blue-romantic vibes along with Travis (“Why Does It Always Rain on Me?”) and Doves (“Catch the Sun”), elbow may be less stellar but is as prolific and its music as compelling and affecting.

Formed in 1997, in Bury, Manchester, England, elbow is Guy Garvey (lead vocals, guitar), Craig Potter (keyboard, piano, backing vocals), Mark Potter (guitar, backing vocals), and Pete Turner (bass, backing vocals). In its more than two decades of activity, the quartet has released eight albums—from 2001’s Asleep in the Back to the recently unleashed Giants of All Sizes.

Released on Friday, October 11th, 2019, via Polydor Records/Verve Label Group, elbow’s eighth offering was recorded at Hamburg’s Clouds Hill Studio, The Dairy in Brixton, 604 Studios in Vancouver and Blueprint Studios in Salford, with additional recording taking place at various band member’s home studios in Manchester. Consisting of nine songs, the new album bursts bright and brims with the opening Trip-Hop/Shoegaze energy of “Dexter & Sinister.”

Less fuzzy but still mind-numbing plays next in the form of “Seven Veils”—flowing, hypnotic, enveloping. “Empires” is another glowing burner, albeit slow and a bit ritualistic and percussive, exuding faint echoes of the Gothic/Dreampop sensibilities of Dead Can Dance (“Yulunga [Spirit Dance]”) and Cocteau Twins (“Carolyn’s Fingers”).

A change of style and rhythm, “The Delayed 3:15” returns the listener to the early, acoustic-oriented and more organic sound of elbow—highlighted by an Eastern-inspired orchestration. Following in the same rustic tradition, “White Noise, White Heat” emits elbow’s edginess and Rock Alternative tendencies; its Flamenco-flavored guitar strums may strike a bell in the senses of anyone familiar with The Cure (“The Blood”). The looping rhythm and ambiance of “Doldrums” then puts the listener in a hazy shade of sonic adventure.

A pair of Worldbeat-inspired tracks then come next—the romantic heartbeat of “My Trouble,” which pierces through the listener’s lovelorn sentiments; and the Arabic-sounding, Dance Pop tune “On Deronda Road,” easily captivating passersby. Finally, elbow wraps up its pièce de résistance in the same brightness and boldness with the modern balladry of “Weightless.”

With its latest effort, elbow has accomplished something seemingly greater than the sum of its past, by pushing the boundaries of its music. Giants of All Sizes is a progressive transition from the minimalist beginnings of the enduring band. Cryptic Rock gives it 4 out of 5 stars.

Purchase Giants of All Sizes:

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aLfie vera mella
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Born in 1971, in Metro Manila, Philippines, aLfie vera mella is a healthcare worker, singer/songwriter, and editor/writer. He was the frontman of the ’90s-peaking Philippine Alternative Rock / New Wave band Half Life Half Death, which released a full-length album and several singles on Viva Records. aLfie worked at Diwa Scholastic Press as an editor/writer of academic textbooks and supplementary magazines, focusing on Science & Technology and English Grammar & Literature. In 2003, aLfie migrated to Canada; he has since been living in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He works full-time at a healthcare institution, while serving as the associate contributing editor of Filipino Journal—a local community newspaper in Winnipeg—tackling Literature, Languages, Cultures, Lifestyles, and Music. aLfie has been a music journalist since the mid-’90s for various print magazines as well as websites. He started writing album reviews for Cryptic Rock in 2015. In 2016, aLfie published Part One (Literature & Languages and Their Cultural Significance) of his Essay Series, Can You Hear the Sound of a Falling Leaf?; in 2021, his first book of poetry, Pag-íhip sa Dáhon ng Kahápon [Blowing Leaves of Yesterday]. In his spare time, he enjoys reading books and listening to music. aLfie is a dedicated father to his now 13-year-old son, Evawwen; and a loving husband to Kathryn Mella, who herself moonlights also as a writer aside from holding a degree in Bachelor of Arts, Major in Sociology.

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