Related Articles: Music, All

Stornoway – Beachcomber’s Windowsill

Released on 4AD, 8/10/10

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

If you are looking for another summer album about babes, the beach and surfing, the latest release by Oxford’s Stornoway may disappoint.

Drenched and dreamy Beachcomber’s Windowsill is not. There are no trebled-out guitars, vibrato-heavy keys, or vocals so deep inside a cave making out the lyrics turns from challenging to a full on Agatha Christie mystery. Instead the listener is met with something so frank and earnest it is initially off-putting in its straightforwardness.

Singer Brian Briggs sets the scene at the beginning of each song, from heading to work to missing the train, riding in the car as a youth to the changing of the seasons, and in each song he walks us through those feelings that accompany each scenario. A poet he is not, but the clarity with which Briggs is able to transport the listener back to the individuality of these general settings is exceptional.

I can remember riding in the back of my parent’s car feeling entirely alone and misunderstood, while maintaining the self-importance of a youthful ignorance I was completely unaware of. The songwriting is simple, the lyrics even more so, but the sentiment behind the compositions are so very clear they are almost immaculate in their existence. We spend years in recovery from adolescence, and here is Beachcomber’s Windowsill to remind us of the aimlessness and loss of young love and the hopefulness and arrogance of feeling at once powerless and invincible.

The production quality on the album is impeccable, another definite stand out feature that pulls the listener from the simple pop structure that flows through the majority of the songs. I found myself pleasantly surprised by the organs placed low in the mix on “I Saw You Blink,” the same goes for the mandolins on “Fuel Up,” the slide on “We Are The Battery Human,” and the vast majority of the backing vocals. These additions are understated, but completely necessary, fantastically arranged and entirely welcome.

Stornoway may not be the hippest of bands. Sorry folks, they are not from Brooklyn. Their songs have structure and they do not apply the term “freak” to any part of their sonic description. What they are is entirely unpretentious, youthfull, and upbeat. I fear they will get eaten alive, but at least the soundtrack will be wholesome.