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From the Lowlands - Tom McRae

"We come from the lowlands / Dream of high ground."

On first impressions From the Lowlands ('Being the second part of The Alphabet of Hurricanes') feels like a perplexingly spare, small record. An EP with ideas above its station. Certainly not the same kind of diverse, confident affair as its predecessor.

It's not long before those first impressions are confounded. Ruthlessly stripped-back tracks such as the opener, 'Lately's All I Know', worm their way into your brain with melodic hooks that belie the starkness of the production (or indeed its subject of bereavement). The cover of 'Sloop John B' counterpoints a melancholy take with rich harmonies, the beautiful title track blooms into a choir of voices, and when 'The Alphabet of Hurricanes' finally makes itself known as a song rather than an album, it's as an epic 8 minute affair heralded by lush string arrangements. Lyrically it's also one of the strongest compositions on a collection of sincere songwriting that's almost painfully confessional, even for Tom McRae. Two tracks, the perky 'Fuck you, Prometheus' and the maudlin 'All That's Gone', confront failure to achieve success: "time has worn a hole in me /the place I keep my dreams". Another two tracks, the opener and the lovely 'Ship of Blue and Green' contemplate death and loss. And yet the overwhelming impression is not of gloom but of melancholy beauty.

It's not the most commercial of offerings; as an introduction to Tom's music it's unlikely to convert the unfaithful. The closest thing to a single here is 'Belly of a Whale' which is very agreeable but never quite soars, or the sprawling closer. The actual single, or at least the one with the online video, is the low key 'Nothing on the Dry Land', my nomination for the least remarkable song on the album.

Ultimately this album has an intimacy that means it never quite escapes the feeling of a maxi-sized EP, but with a full-band album already recorded for release next year maybe that's exactly what this wants to be. It's certainly a more addictive experience than it may first appear.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPad.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 23rd, 2012 10:49 am (UTC)
Yay! Iaiaianses! How's the family?
Sep. 23rd, 2012 01:26 pm (UTC)
Halloooooooo! Yes, the advent of twitter means I now struggle to form coherent thoughts of more than 140 characters, so I've been very bad about posting here. Sorry!

The family is very well, thanks! Here's a couple of pics (that may or may not work):

We've just (tentatively, subject to paperwork) sold our house and are intending to move into a new 5 bed place that will allow Anna and Jennifer to both have their own rooms AND still have somewhere for Mummy and Daddy to, y'know, have a life of their own. If all goes well, which is by no means certain, we may even et moved by Christmas. that would also be great because Anna has to apply for a school place by January and there's a good school near the new house. Fingers crossed...

Hard to believe that Anna is 3 and Jennifer is 8 months old already. Jennifer is at the crawling purposefully stage, although she can 'walk' very well if you help her balance by holding her hands. She's just starting on solids - finger foods, and purees. Lots of milk still on the menu, though!

Sep. 23rd, 2012 05:38 pm (UTC)
Ooh, what a bunch of happy little bunnies. *gets nostalgic*

My little bunny has been bugging me about letting her wear make-up. Le sigh.
Sep. 23rd, 2012 08:02 pm (UTC)
I assure you that they do their fair share of crying, it just never makes it into the photos! Anna has been having quite a few tantrums lately, often about nothing much, where it's hard to talk her down because talking to her just winds her up more.

And she was on at us just the other day to have her toenails painted like some girls in Nursery. We put her off saying it was for older girls, so she now expects to paint her toenails when she's either 4, or 10 years old. it was unclear!
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )