Albums Of The Week

Music review: Elbow’s seventh album Little Fictions is soaring and magnificent

Elbow (comprising, from far left, Craig Potter, Guy Garvey, Mark Potter and Pete Turner) shine with stellar and imaginative playing.
Elbow (comprising, from far left, Craig Potter, Guy Garvey, Mark Potter and Pete Turner) shine with stellar and imaginative playing.PHOTO: UNIVERSAL MUSIC

Elbow's seventh album, Little Fictions, is a collection of life-affirming tunes and grand orchestral sounds

Soaring and magnificent, Manchester band Elbow's seventh album, Little Fictions, is full of tunes that are as life-affirming as the highlights from their 27-year career.

Perhaps it has to do with singer Guy Garvey's voice. A burly man blessed with one of the most soothing and kindest-sounding voices in British rock, his distinctive Mancunian lilt rings strong and true in the 10 new tracks.

It is the first release since he got married (and also the first after founding drummer Richard Jupp left last year to concentrate on teaching drums and doing charity work). That he is a man in love is obvious, although the songs are, thankfully, not soppy.

In album closer Kindling, one of the album's many lofty tracks, one gets caught up in his joy at something as simple as receiving a notification on his phone: "Then my telephone shakes into life and I see your name/And the wheat fields explode into gold either side of the train."

    • ALTERNATIVE ROCK/ INDIE ROCK

    • Elbow (comprising, from far left, Craig Potter, Guy Garvey, Mark Potter and Pete Turner) shine with stellar and imaginative playing.LITTLE FICTIONS

      Elbow

      Polydor/Concord

      4.5/5 stars

On tender ballad Montparnasse, he croons gently: "Your heart could easy power three of me/Should my love get lost in the delivery."

Elegiac and spirited by turns, his singing could stand on its own, sans music.

But then come the rest of the band's progressive tendencies (this is, after all, a group as influenced by Genesis as they are by Radiohead) and the songs are elevated to another level.

Garvey's bandmates shine with stellar and imaginative playing, as intricately layered as some of their best works, including 2008's Mercury Prize-winning The Seldom Seen Kid.

Mark Potter's guitars run the gamut from percussive strums (Trust The Sun) to finger-picked goodness (Head For Supplies); Craig Potter's pianos are lush and, at times, offbeat; and Pete Turner's bass dances around the vocal melodies (K2) and even makes a detour into dub territory on Magnificent (She Says).

Session drummer Alex Reeves steps into Jupp's shoes with ease: His intricate playing eschews formulaic rock rhythms for beats that recall genres as seemingly disparate as krautrock, tribal and electronica.

And what is an Elbow album without the lavish sounds of a full orchestra? The strong presence of Manchester symphony orchestra The Halle and its choir gives the songs a grandiose sheen.

Those who caught the band at their only Singapore show so far - at the Esplanade Concert Hall in 2012 - would remember how monumental they sounded live, strings and all.

It is a testament to their abilities that the same expansiveness can be found in their studio recordings.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 08, 2017, with the headline 'Lush, lavish ballads'. Print Edition | Subscribe