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Album review: Stornoway - 'Beachcomber's Windowsill' (4AD)

Technology takes a battering as dreams of the simple life are given a beautiful, rural makeover

Album review: Stornoway - 'Beachcomber's Windowsill' (4AD)

8 / 10 If The La’s sounded like Liverpool, Joy Division recreated Manchester’s cellar scene in song and Blur were an aural Dagenham, Stornoway are by contrast a postcard-perfect rendition of the remote Outer Hebridean town they’re named after. You can almost hear the wicker man crackling.

That Stornoway are actually from Cowley in Oxford makes them more a technophobic, back-to-nature social statement than a straight-up yokel folk act. They do photoshoots in potato-famine garb and twangle pastoral folk pop songs called ‘Watching Birds’ and ‘Zorbing’ (about steering one of the titular plastic globes through Oxford town centre). “[i]I am a seabird/You are the Arctic Ocean/I know your seasons and your sanctuaries[/i]”, sings Brian Briggs on the [a]Grizzly Bear[/a]-ish [b]‘The Coldharbour Road’[/b], a song that sounds like it was written on a tilting clipper in a Force Six sea-squall rather than 50 miles inland and within earshot of [a]Foals[/a]’ House Of Supreme Mathematics.

See, Stornoway are pent-up dreamers yearning for simpler, bygone lives – lives less burdened with career anxiety, Twitternoia and iPad envy. It’s none more stark than on vivacious shanty [b]‘We Are The Battery Human’[/b]: “[i]We need to go online each day/But inside we don’t get no reception/So join the new revolution/To free the battery human/’Cos we were born to be free range[/i]”.

It might all sound a bit Green Futures Field, a bit Julian Cope, a bit Norfolk, but Stornoway sure make the idea of lobbing your iPhone into the sea and going feral sound idyllic. [b]‘Zorbing’[/b] is as exuberant as the best of
Shack, ‘I Saw You Blink’ recalls the superlative folk pop of Stephen Duffy and The Lilac Time, while [b]‘Fuel Up’[/b] is as tear-jerking a song of chin-up-mate support as you’ve heard since [b]‘Dry Your Eyes’[/b]. Throughout, [b]‘Beachcomber’s Windowsill’[/b] is beautifully rendered and melodically magnificent; a Constable landscape of a record. If anybody needs me I’ll be listening to it while rolling naked down Scafell Pike.

[b]Mark Beaumont[/b]

[i]What do you think of the album? Let us know by posting a comment below[/i]

Click here to get your copy of Stornoway's 'The Beachcomber's Windowsill' from the Rough Trade shop.

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