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Reviews

Stornoway
Beachcomber’s Windowsill Meryl Trussler , June 25th, 2010 05:41

Wait, this reached number 14 in the UK album charts? What a hideous machine, from the birth to the bang. Two years ago Stornoway were offhandedly mentioned as a band my friend liked to catch around Oxford. Then apparently Sara Cox and Jools Holland got involved and now it looks like they're one of those semi-famous mutant groups, caught halfway in transmogrification between pub-gigs and Radio 1, like Noah and the Whale and other such X and the Ys. Rear thy ugly head, Stornoway.

Not unlike the Whale, this monster is placid and benevolent; Stornoway sound a little like the Lucksmiths, but with English choirboy-vox and country diner keyboards. They do better when they re-jig the formula, such as on ‘We are Battery Human' (that's a chicken analogy), which simmers gorgeously with banjo, a male chorus and skiffle-drums. They sing “we were born to be free range, free-ee range, whoa-oh-oh” with such earnestness it ceases to sound as silly. ‘The End of the Movie' is soggy and heartwarming, reminiscent again of Lucksmiths, and of Slow Club, and is probably the best explanation for the fame: it's easy fodder for being wistful.

But nothing else is too remarkable. It's maybe another example of what I might start calling The Campesinos! crisis: when everything is universally bearable but the singer's voice, with this usually being the divisive element. (If it wasn't a factor, a lot more of us might still be listening to Death Cab for Cutie. … Maybe.) That said, the voice is only objectionable for its blandness. It can be ignored. After several listens, I don't get utterly sick of it until two minutes from the end of the album, which seems like an excellent bit of musical math on Stornoway's part.

And so: Beachcomber's Windowsill is okay. It might be the type of album to use selfishly, to pluck out the good songs for use as mixtape filler or the perfect tearjerk-off. That is no small achievement. Bandwagon-hoppers could do a lot worse.

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