This is a review of "We Have It All" recorded by Sawsound. The review was written by Jessica Thornsby in 2011.
Leeds' Sawsound take the violins of modern, trendy indie-folk and present it with a more rock aesthetic. Take away the violin, and you'd be left with some fairly run-of-the-mill indie-rock, but thankfully, Sawsound know when they're onto a good thing - violinist Tori Greenhead knows how to wield that violin, and their handwork underpins the whole of this album.
'Echolocation (Slight Return)' and 'Back From Judgment' both use steady vocals, the occasional shimmer of guitar and unhurried drums to soften the listener up, before going in for the kill with the violin. Whether it's the emotional, cutting edge of 'Echolocation (Slight Return)' or the heady swirl of 'Back From Judgment,' the violin is always used to bewitching effect. It takes a little time for these two songs to charm you, but it's well worth that initial effort.
From these subtle beginnings, Sawsound take it down another notch for the world music-esque 'The Stone.' 'The Stone' is a song of starry guitar, story-telling lyrics and breathy vocals, threaded through with that elusive, piped-piper violin. It's pretty and easy-on-the-ears, but still exotic enough to intrigue. However, on 'History' Sawsound take the slow-burner a little too far. This is a sparkling song full of sweet vocal harmonies, but it's too content to drift along, and consequently drifts right past the listener.
'Sleepers' and 'We Have It All' are more rock-orientated departures from the norm. 'We Have It All' takes Sawsound's staples of clattering guitar, swooping violin and chanted world-music vocals, and powers them along with a thunderous tribal beat. Oddly, the violin whimpering away in the background fits perfectly with this rougher, tougher beat. 'We Have It All' is rock-meets-folk, meets-world-music which, inexplicably, equals one catchy song with a satisfyingly crunchy beat. 'Sleepers' is a sudden foray into alt-rock, and is a perfect trade-off between catchiness and darkness. The brooding undertones and buzzsaw riffs, are balanced with disco drums Biffy Clyro would be proud of. 'Sleepers' is rock that is just odd enough to be memorable, whilst still being maddeningly catchy. An unexpected album highlight.
'Reunion' has a similarly quirky, off-centre drumbeat, but not much else. Yes, you'll walk around humming it all day, but you'll be trying desperately not to. 'Dry Heat' is a safer bet if you're after catchiness. Some genius main/backing vocal interplay equals one insanely catchy chorus, and the whole thing is underpinned by a knocking drumbeat that contrasts against the elastic vocals and wafting violins. This is one distinctive Sawsound head-trip that'll linger in your mind and, unlike 'Reunion' you'll actually want it there.
'We Have It All' isn't the easiest of albums, and a few repeat listens are necessary to get to grips with Sawsound's unusual take on indie-folk but that violin, glimpsed here and there moving through the songs, is enough to make you want to put in that initial effort. Channeling elements of folk and world music into indie-rock-shaped songs, this is an eclectic, subtle album. Not for the masses, but a select few will love this - which, you sense, was Sawsound's intention all along.