Monday, July 11, 2011

REVIEW: Sons and Daughters - Mirror Mirror

In their 2009 album, The Gift, Glasgow's Sons and Daughters emphatically proved that they could be a kick ass pop/rock band with a dense, danceable sound and soaring vocals from Adele. But what Sons and Daughters have done best, and most distinctly, in their career is the spare, percussive folk punk that built their resume through Love the Cup and The Repulsion Box. To my delight, the new Mirror Mirror (released in the US tomorrow on Domino Records) uses the band's roots as the foundation for an intriguing expansion. Accordingly, we get the driving bass and drums from Ailidh Lennon and David Gow, respectively, Scott Paterson's searing guitar, and the vocals from Scott and Adele Bethel. But that's just the start--the band and the album's producer, JD Twitch (Keith McIvor) of the club Optimo, have deployed vintage synths and sampled sounds (such as, to delightful effect, the sound of typewriter keys). Another noticeable development is an increased sense of space around the sounds to heighten the atmosphere. The effect can be stunning, as in the album's opening track, "Silver Spell":

Sons & Daughters - Silver Spell by DominoRecordCo

As expected, the album boasts melodies and vocal hooks. But at its core, Mirror Mirror is a tapestry of rhythms and space. I've always considered the rhythm section of this band to be excellent, if overshadowed in the past by Scott and Adele; on this album, they are stunningly good. The drumming is aggressive, even insistent, without overpowering the other players. And Ailidh's bass, track after track, powers the songs with a throbbing ebb and flow, becoming the heart of the album. The layers of rhythm continue with the synths and samples, Scott's guitar, and even the vocal performances. If I've got it right, I applaud the band and JD Twitch for the cohesive vision and masterful execution.

I'd love to write a track by track review, but most readers don't seem to want that level of someone else's musings about an art form that needs to be heard to be understood. And this is an album that needs to be felt, as much as heard. So I'll only add that the album is wonderfully dark, spooky, atmospheric and jittery. At this point, it is one of my top five albums of the year to date.

I'll close with two more tracks. "Rose Red" has become one of my favorites. It begins with a pulsing beat and Adele's fine vocals, with punctuation from Scott's guitar. But it builds to breathtaking acid rock climax. It's one of those songs after which you expect the band to rest vocal cords, replace strings and drum skins, towel off, and perhaps have a cuddle and smoke. Lyrics aside, the feel, pure and simple, is X-rated.

"Breaking Fun" is the third track on the album, has been released as a single, and is the subject of this fine video.


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