First review in ages so if I seem a bit rusty, I am. Stick with me though and we'll probably be alright.
I had no idea what to expect from this. I didn't and still don't know the first thing about Heart-Ships. Well that's a lie. I know they're on Twitter and I know this came out last month. Oh and their name sounds like there's a pun in there about not having it easy. Hardly expert knowledge though is it? When faced with this situation I like to limit myself further by not reading the press release or doing any research. 'If it's good enough it doesn't need any blurb' I suppose being my caveat for this slackness.
After one listen I was very glad to pick a local band for my return to reviews. I've since drifted into an obsessive state and can say (hand on heart this time) I've lost count of the number of plays I've given this. Listening to FOIL has formed a happy backdrop to my working hours of late and considering my day-to-day involves writing letters for a stockbroker - that's no mean feat.
I soak myself in music for as many waking hours as is acceptable - both socially and for somebody in the first six months of married life. I've been this way as long as I can remember. My collection's broad and there's little off limits. Ordinarily this helps to find points of reference when writing a review but for the first few listens of FOIL it actually made the album almost too much fun to appreciate in itself. That's my problem though and not a pop at Heart-Ships. It's just that until I stopped becoming giddy about particular sounds here and there I wasn't quite hearing everything. You see this album is full, and I mean full, of sounds.
So we'll skip to the part of the week where I was taking it all in. That's what these words are really about: the point where I can articulate what I experience when I listen to the music. (I did say I was rusty.... 321 words in and we're getting to it).
This is a big album full of deserved self-confidence. This is assured and reassuring individualism pushing back the encroaching front of blandness in a time of battery-pop. That's what seals this as one of the best things I've heard all year.
It's the sound of artists not trying too hard to impress the crowd but eliciting undeniable pleasure all the same. If an albums' sound could wear clothes then FOIL makes a theatrical entrance wearing something nobody else would have either the balls to wear, or the coolness to pull off. The thing is it's not even for show: this is just what it wears to go down to the corner shop in to grab some milk.
It's an unfashionable sound in so much as there's a lack of handshakes with its contemporaries, but this is one of FOIL's strengths and means it has an indelible impression. It certainly did have on me. Nine tracks and no two sound the same yet FOIL wears its heart on its sleeve for every note. Whether it's in the orchestration or baritone vocals, emotion presents itself on a stick for the licking.
A quite dazzling production quality throughout; the atmosphere shifts around with ease as refrainment gives way to outburst, lament swirls into euphoria; without once serving up trite hits. On that I've deliberated saying which song stands out for me but it's actually just a bit too hard. Just when I decide on 'We were quick to bang the drum' (check the synths in the final minute or the wob-wob bass or David Byrne tones in the vocals), I remember the battle-cry/life-affirming vocals of 'Heart of a wrestler' ("And you've taken some heavy hits in your time, you've been in some fierce grips"). Then soon after I start to think that opener 'Nadine' is the tops until I hear the blood and guts that is 'Ancestor'.
You get the general idea by now: I really, really like this. FOIL opens strongly, finishes on a perfect high and everything in between is very good indeed or bloody ace. I can't believe I still know diddly about Heart-Ships but I'm going to put that right - right now. Now where did I chuck that press-release?
See? Told you we'd get there. Now to listen to FOIL you need to go to Soundcloud and type in Heart-Ships. You'll want to own it though so visit the 7digital website or iTunes for that once you get past your first convincing listen on the cloud thing.