Monday, 21 April 2014
I Am An Island - Fatherson
Last week Fatherson, an independent/DIY band from Ayrshire in Scotland, released their debut album I Am An Island. It shot into the top reaches of the iTunes alternative album chart during the first week, but then Fatherson have been steadily building a fanbase and reputation in Scotland for a number of years.
The question is now whether they can replicate that in other parts of the UK and beyond.
I have to admit that their album has surprised me. Whilst it is pretty easy to predict when the riffs and beats are coming in on a lot of the songs, it is a good solid debut, including a few gems - An Island, Cat Stevens, Dust and the secret track I Am that highlight the promise of the band.
I Am An Island is a showcase for singer-songwriter Ross Leighton, backed superbly by Chris Beltran, Marc Strain and Greg Walkinshaw.
The album opener is one of a few real gems for me. An Island opens with Ross Leighton singing over a picked guitar and prolonged synth chord. Leighton's voice rises and falls, it immediately sounds open, true and honest. The lyrics match the voice. The rest of the band kick in at 2-minutes and then there is a huge 'woah-oa-oh-oh' chorus that would be perfect for a festival with Leighton singing 'I Am An Island' for all his worth over the top of it. A great start.
I find myself liking some bits of Hometown but not others.
I Like Knowing is the lead single from the album. Crashing in with a riff that screams American College rock, it slows down (Fatherson like the loud/quiet/loud or quiet/loud/quiet formula), builds and then goes a little Futurheads (remember them?) at the end with an 'Oh no, oh no, oh no' refrain.
I don't know where we are going
Could hazard a guess but I like not knowing
Cat Stevens is a real highlight for me, starting off with a picked guitar riff over a gentle synth chord. The band are in no rush, the structure, song and production gel superbly. Huge guitar riffs kick in at a minute and a half, backed by a cello, before it all slows down in a glorious manner at 2-minutes. What follows is just tremendous; backing vocals that fans can sing-a-long with, a huge and truly epic ending
Music fans will note the nod to Cat Stevens who has the song Father and Son.
Fatherson are managed by Bruce Craigie who also manages Idlewild and there is more than a hint of Idlewild about Lights and Mine for Me. The playing is tight and the guitars sound fantastic throughout the album; a great mix of light, fragile and gentle and then warm, brash, loud and proud at others.
From Idlewild to Biffy Clyro, fellow Ayrshire boys who have an uncanny knack for taking a formula and making it work. Half the Things does that 'quiet, loud, quiet, loud, hammer a refrain home' formula. You can definitely imagine this going down well at festivals.
I'm on an island that no-one ever visits
I'm wasting all my time here
I'm never getting finished
Dust is another standout (for me anyway). Ross Leighton's voice is beautiful and he shows it off in many different ways throughout the album. Dust strips things down, just Ross and electric guitar. It is rather beautiful. Leighton's voice rises with ease as he strums, bashes and picks at his guitar.
James is big and bold, telling of moving home, making and losing friends. Fatherson may work to the quiet/loud formula quite regularly but they are capable of doing it very well. Many songs sound like they could be 3 or 4 different songs stitched together. In reality, Leighton and his band just have the ability (songwriting and musical) to do what they want and when they want.
James is a fine example of this, the minute (or so) of the song from 1 minute 30 seconds is mellow and gorgeous, picking pace and adding piano and then slowing right down again. It then goes absolutely massive and then breaks into another festival friendly refrain.
So go home, sober up
Take the weight off your feet and just chill
Kiteers doesn't quite work - at least not for me.
The album closes with Foreign Waters then there is a minute or so of silence before a secret track entitled I Am emerges, like Dust, it is just Leighton backed by guitar. Like Dust, it is a highlight.
Fatherson play their biggest headline show to date this Saturday coming (April 26th) at The Arches in Glasgow. Look out for them at Scottish festivals (and hopefully beyond) through the summer.