“My son, my son, my son,” Orlando Weeks hums like an incantation on ‘Milk Breath’, the track opening the new chapter in his life – as a solo artist, and as a father. The former Maccabees frontman is transformed, his debut album ‘A Quickening’ crystallising the period of learning and loving that defined the past few years as he became a parent.
His former band’s indie rock is nowhere to be seen, Weeks’ soothing vocals leaning into swirling collages of instrumentation. Piano, brass, percussion and woodwind all dance and melt as one on 11 tracks that offer ambient sounds and tender wisdom.
Weeks sings lullabies with which he could serenade adults without waking a child who’s just fallen asleep. “The rise and fall of your milk chest” he sings on that aforementioned opener, a vivid image mirrored in “I’ll be your blood sugar” on following track ‘Blood Sugar’. He’s long been a compelling storyteller – his first children’s book The Grittterman was published last year – and this is an album filled with intimate stories. The piano-led ‘St Thomas’ nods to the ward his son was born in, and on the stripped-back ‘Summer Clothes’ he speaks of his partner, her body and clothes.
The experience of parenthood that Weeks recalls on ‘A Quickening’ is one that is shared, never monopolised. He acknowledges he has witnessed, while his partner has experienced. While the lyrics focus on outwards, he also cedes space to his band members’ dexterous solos. The best tracks are those most layered – ‘All The Things’ is driven at first by the shake of a tambourine, but by the second verse a brass solo has disrupted the rhythm; dissonant percussion keeps building, and then – suddenly – we’re left with nothing more than piano.
This is a feverish and hypnotic collection, bottling the overwhelming nature of the new world of parenting while acknowledging that it is absolutely ordinary for so many people. There’s no trace of self-indulgence here – everything is always open and collaborative, reaching out to another. “I better dance with someone / make a life with someone” Weeks sings on ‘None Too Tough’ which stretches his vocals, epitomising the effort and emotion now required on a daily basis.
Musically, ‘A Quickening’ feels like a thunderstorm against the blue sky of The Maccabees’ history. A maelstrom of hums, echoes and grumbles of horns, percussion and bass pushes against always gentle melodies. But Week’s voice, striking and smooth, always blends with the music. One is not stronger than the other. Delicacy and power, waiting and living, the ordinary and the extraordinary – the listener is invited to feel it all.
Release date: June 12
Record label: Play It Again Sam