Producer: Craig Potter
Release Date: February 3, 2017
Sounding somewhere between Peter Gabriel and Radiohead, the English alternative quartet Elbow has been steadily putting out acclaimed albums ever since the early 2000s. Their records have netted them a couple of Mercury Prize nominations, one victory, a Brit Award, an NME Award, alongside bunch of others. Their seventh studio album Little Fictions continues on the band’s usual track, featuring serene guitar melodies and melancholic vocal harmonies, with vocalist Guy Garvey’s distinct voice hovering gently above the instrumental arrangements. Nothing seems to have changed drastically since 2014’s The Take Offs and Landings of Everything, which is not necessarily a bad thing: that was one my favourite albums of the year.
The opening track “Magnificent (She Says)” features dramatic violins throughout its bridges and choruses. Little Fictions was done in collaboration with The Hallé symphonic orchestra and their choir, which fits the sound of Elbow tremendously, giving their occasional fits of dramatic grandiosity a little extra oomph. “Trust the Sun” combines its weird, out-of-touch lyrics with equally disoriented song structure. “Firebrand & Angel” comprises of two distinct parts, the first of which is dominated by a repeating, percussive piano riff. The latter portion of the song features a ticking guitar track, scratching away as the looping refrain builds a layer on top of layer with each repeat. “K2” combines an airy, almost ambient-level of instrumentation with a constant stream of echoing vocals, building a soundscape as vast and lonely as the mountain the track was named after. All of these tracks showcase us the qualities we’ve come to expect and appreciate about Elbow on their six previous albums.
Despite the great number of great tracks, the biggest weakness of Little Fictions is perhaps its refusal to diverge when compared to previous Elbow material — and occasionally even with itself — which causes some tracks on the album to sound a bit too alike. The bittersweet yet uplifting slower tracks “All Disco”, “Montparnasse” and “Kindling” suffer from this the most, with their similar vocal melodies and slow tempo making the two latter tracks feel like reprises of the former. Individually listened each those three tracks are fine, but as a part of the album they just sort of meld into a formless, indistinguishable mass.
Despite this small problem Little Fictions is a worthy continuation to Elbow’s evenly great discography. It does not try to shake things up, which means that your enjoyment of the album can be directly predicted from how much have you enjoyed the band’s previous material. If you’ve enjoyed their heartfelt, bittersweet soulfulness, this one might just be their most intimate and soulful yet. However, if you’ve found them slow and dull, Little Fictions doesn’t even attempt to correct you. If you have never listened to Elbow, this is as good place to start as any.