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Through The Window Pane by Guillemots

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Reviewed on 6th July 2006.


Through The Window Pane

By Guillemots

If Guillemots could invite anyone, living or dead, over for a dinner party, the table would look something like this. At one end, Jeff Buckley - soaring vocal range and raw, emotional power through songwriting - sipping a fine wine, deep in discussion with Damien Rice - subtly dynamic and overflowing with a modest confidence. In the middle, The Flaming Lips debate with The Polyphonic Spree about the state of eccentricity in music today. At the other end, Athlete, with their simple, effective pop sensibilities. Guillemots, hailing from all around the globe and clearly benefitting from their contrasting backgrounds, sit somewhere closeby, observing, converging...

Such comparisons serve only as an initial reference point because, quite honestly, Through the Window Pane - the debut album following a series of successful singles and EPs - has a sound of its own. The Arcade Fire is a name that's been thrown about regularly during the Guillemots hype, but it's a lazy comparison, their tendency towards a big, epic indie sound being the only real parallel between the artists. Whereas The Arcade Fire build huge, slow-burning walls of indie ambience, Guillemots go for what could be seen as a more straightforward approach, throwing more into the mix, upping the tempo, and throwing it all into a standard pop structure.

There are, of course, beautifully notable exceptions. Opener Little Bear fades in to sweeping strings and detuned piano, fragile vocals dipping in and out of the song. Mellow track 4 Redwings starts off like Coldplay, ends like The Magic Numbers, but is completely Guillemots in between. Samba Through The Snowy Rain is haunting and ethereal, creeping, climbing and falling throughout; If The World Ends is uneasy and apocalyptic - think Muse on sedatives. Generally, though, it's the more upbeat numbers that are instantly striking: latest single Made Up Love Song #43 is a true dance-along chart track; Trains to Brazil is conventional but all the better for it; title track Through The Window Pane showcases Fyfe Dangerfield's mesmerising voice brilliantly in, quite simply, an unfaultable radio-friendly masterwork. This is an area in which Guillemots excel: they may be unique, but their sound is reassuringly familiar and accessible.

Guillemots' influences aren't particularly well-hidden, but this works more to their advantage than anything. Hailing from all around the globe, the band incorporate elements from a varierty of different genres worldwide, creating a distinctive sound that still has the characteristics of a huge array of other musical styles. From an analytical perspective, it's a proven method of success, yet Through The Window Pane certainly gives the impression that this is out of a true love of music as opposed to any sneaky sales technique. And true love is definitely a theme explored here: Fife's lyrics centre heavily around such issues. At times it's a gloriously naive record - Made Up Love Song #43 is the perfect teen romance; the almost a'cappella Blue Would Still Be Blue follows a similar path - but there are real touches of maturity and intelligence throughout. The latter track's lyrics read almost like a Shakespearean sonnet, while - though staying with the theme of love - Trains to Brazil subtly references the DeMenezes subway shooting of 2005. It's multi-layered, intentional and both deeply thoughtful and thought-provoking.

More than anything, though, Through the Winow Pane is one of the few recent releases that has such an immediate ability to charm, captivate and affect the listener. It's an instant album, but the novelty doesn't wear off - it sticks with you, on your CD player, on your walk to work, in your memory and in your thoughts. Without a single poor song, Guillemots' full-length debut is a magical record, one that - if justice exists in the world of pop music - will be recognised as such in years to come.



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