Category Archives: Music

Glass Hammer Continues Winning Streak with “Skallagrim – Into The Breach”

Skallagrim

Chattanooga, TN proggers Glass Hammer are set to release the second installment of the Skallagrim Trilogy: Into the Breach. It is an eagerly awaited work, and I am happy to report that it exceeds expectations. If you thought last year’s Dreaming City was a departure from their typical sound, Into the Breach further develops their new, heavier approach to their music.

Besides the obvious elements like super heavy, crunchy guitars, new lead vocalist Hannah Pryor rocks like a …. well, you can fill in the blank. Suffice it to say that Ms. Pryor can belt out a song with the best of them, while maintaining a purity of tone that is never grating.

The lyrics continue the adventures of the jewel thief Skallagrim, this time focusing on his mercenary adventuring as he battles to lift a curse and restore his memory. He is accompanied by his comrade in arms, Hartbert, and they are financed by a mysterious powerbroker, Erling. However, you don’t need to know the story to enjoy the music.

And what glorious music Into the Breach is! It begins with the short acoustic ballad, “He’s Got A Girl”, that segues directly into the roaring “Anthem to Andorath”. This one took my breath away when I first heard it (check out the official video below). Pryor’s vocals intertwine effortlessly with Babb’s and Schendel’s to an exhilarating climax.

The musical pummeling doesn’t let up with “Sellsword” which opens with the dirtiest guitar riff Glass Hammer has ever put to tape. Maybe they’re unleashing pandemic-spawned frustrations, but Steve Babb, Fred Schendel, and Aaron Raulston have never played with this much ferocity.

Glass Hammer, v.2021: Pryor, Schendel, Babb, and Raulston

“Steel” alternates between crushing riffs and bouncy flights of Rundgrenesque popcraft. Pryor’s powerful vocals are the glue that hold all the disparate parts together.

The next two tracks, “Moon Pool” and “The Dark” are instrumentals. “Moon Pool” recalls classic Tangerine Dream, continuing the trend Glass Hammer began in Dreaming City.

“The Ogre of Archon” is another winning hard rock song, which goes directly into the blistering title track. There is an excellent section where Babb’s bass and Schendel’s organ play off of each other as Reese Boyd (or Brian Brewer, it’s not credited) plays terrific solos worthy of Alex Lifeson.

To my mind, the next three songs form a mini-trilogy. “The Forlorn Hope” is one of the best songs on the album, and it offers a bit of a respite from the heavy atmosphere of the rest of the album. “The Writing On The Wall” combines Crimsonesque melodic runs with some more spacey sections that allow Babb’s always inventive bass playing to shine. “Hyperborea” is an almost ten-minute long tour de force that is the finest track on the album, and one of the best songs Glass Hammer has ever done. It is a loving tribute to classic Rush, which in true Glass Hammer fashion, deftly pays their respects without descending into mere imitation.

The album closes with the brief “Bright Sword” which sets the scene for the conclusion of the Skallagrim Trilogy, and leaves the listener begging for more. Into the Breach clocks in at a hefty 70+ minutes, but I’ve listened to it in its entirety a dozen times, and it never feels labored or long. Every note counts, and every second is an aural pleasure.

After nearly 30 years and more than 20 albums, most artists would be exhausted. With Into the Breach, Glass Hammer are playing as if someone has lit a fire under them; this music is some of the most passionate they’ve ever put together. Their ability to constantly challenge themselves and revitalize their sound makes them the most fascinating and satisfying rock band in America. Meanwhile, Skallagrim – Into the Breach consolidates the great leap forward Glass Hammer took with Dreaming City. It is the heaviest yet most graceful music they have recorded in their long career. It is an unalloyed triumph that leaves the listener eagerly awaiting Chapter Three.

Giancarlo Erra’s Departure Tapes

That which passes, passes like clouds.

— aphorism/song title/album title, Robert Fripp

This is music from a broken heart.

Abruptly faced with his estranged father’s terminal illness, Nosound maestro Giancarlo Erra poured his reactions into brooding electronic improvisations, recorded (for the most part) in real time in the studio. The result is his second solo album, Departure Tapes. Shorn of the classical elements of 2019’s Ends, it’s both raw and eerily majestic — an extended sonic contemplation of mortal life’s limits and the human struggle to accept them.

The opening “Dawn Tape” lays out Erra’s improvisational process — not far removed from Robert Fripp’s Soundscapes or Floating Points’ recent Promises. A mournful lo-fi piano loop (complete with the noise of the recorder switching on) gently creaks into motion. As it repeats over the course of six minutes, Erra stirs in a static mid-range drone, a slow synth line and a recessed bass riff, randomly generated rhythmic chords and a yearning treble melody. The elements accumulate, grind against each other, gradually dissipate like clouds in a troubled sky, with the drone outlasting even the piano loop. But that’s just the architecture: what you hear is the beginning of a new day, its beauty evident yet obscured for Erra by Philip Larkin’s “unresting death, a whole day nearer now.”

Every track on Departure Tapes opens out from its simple beginnings to something rich and deep, no matter its actual length. The tender harp of the miniature “Previous Tape” provides a lush bed for its heartfelt, hornlike melody over an airy, insistent electronic groove. “169th Tape” is a portrait of collisions and avoidances, as orchestral clusters (treated with random, noisy decay) sweep across the soundfield, holding on against midrange chords and an irregular, descending bass line that threaten to overwhelm it. And “Unwound Tape” sounds like its title, a hypnotic, slow-motion crescendo that has the feel of something feared yet inescapable.

All this builds to the title track, sixteen minutes of heartfelt brilliance. Working off a long, wordless vocal loop, Erra explores his previous strategies, draping the haunting melody with chords and a bass line — then reboots for an extended, lyrical piano solo (featured at the start of the YouTube edit). Flowing from folk lyricism into free-form, dissonant splashes, Erra dances, halts, regains momentum to climb through thickening, pulsing string clouds. Which is when the vocal line returns, triumphantly soaring atop the static gloom. It’s a rhapsodic moment, evoking Mahler in its depiction of both the angst involved in confronting death and the catharsis of acceptance. Which beautifully sets up the closing “A Blues for My Father,” a yearning requiem of glacially shifting melodies and timbres, somber but nonetheless at peace.

It’s that sense of closure, of coming to terms with what awaits us all, that Erra powerfully, beautifully depicts with Departure Tapes. Working from his grief for his father, he’s given us a gift; whatever we believe awaits beyond this life, one day we will pass from this world, like the clouds he’s so vividly drawn on for these improvisational sketches. Coming to terms with that raw fact can enable us — as it would seem to have enabled Giancarlo Erra — to treasure what we have (as well as what we’ve had) all the more.

Departure Tapes is available on LP and CD/DVD from Burning Shed, or on digital download at Bandcamp. Give it a listen below:

— Rick Krueger

NMB: “Bird on a Wire” Video


NMB (Neal Morse Band)– release video for “Bird On A Wire” the second single from ‘Innocence & Danger’NMB are set to release their much-anticipated fourth studio album ‘Innocence & Danger’, on August 27th, 2021. Today, the band are pleased to share the video for “Bird On A Wire”, the second single taken from the upcoming album.
 
Watch the video for “Bird On A Wire,” created by Christian Rios, here
https://youtu.be/Bse9D2yhkwAMike Portnoy says this about the track, “This was the 2nd song we wrote for the new album’s sessions. The main riff & groove stemmed from an idea Randy George brought in and the chorus was something Bill had…and the intro and middle shred riffs were Eric’s…another truly collaborative effort!”
 
Watch the video for the album’s first single “Do It All Again” here:
https://youtu.be/PiNt_kQvoag
 
Watch a clip from “The Making of Innocence & Danger” here:
https://youtu.be/piRaLvCPbQI 
‘Innocence & Danger’, featuring artwork by Thomas Ewerhard (Transatlantic), will be available as:
• Limited 2CD+DVD Digipak (featuring a Making Of documentary)
• 3LP+2CD Boxset
• Standard 2CD Jewelcase
• Digital Album

Pre-order now here:
https://thenealmorseband.lnk.to/InnocenceAndDanger  Tour dates for NMB – ‘An Evening of Innocence & Danger’ are on sale now
across US and Europe here:
https://www.nealmorse.com/2021/06/18/nmbtourdates/
 USA 2021
 
Oct 8th & 9th – Cross Plains, TN – Morsefest 2021
Oct 12th – Seattle, WA – The Triple Door
Oct 14th – St Charles, IL – The Arcada
Oct 15th – Pontiac, MI – The Crofoot Ballroom
Oct 16th – Ft Wayne, IN – Pieres
Oct 17th – Cleveland, OH – The Beachland Ballroom
Oct 19th – Glenside, PA – The Keswick Theater
Oct 20th – Baltimore, MD – Soundstage
Oct 21st – Boston, MA – The Sinclair
Oct 22nd – New York City, NY – The Sony Theater
 
Europe 2022
 
May 28th – Madrid, Spain – Teatro Kapital
May 29th – Barcelona, Spain – Apolo
May 30th – Milan, Italy – Live Club
May 31st – Pratteln, Switzerland – Z7
June 2nd – Tilburg, Netherlands – 013
June 3rd – London, England – Shepherds Bush Empire
June 4th – Paris, France – Trianon
June 5th – Esch Sur Alzette, Luxembourg – Rockhal
June 7th – Cologne, Germany – Live Music Hall
June 9th – Brno, Czech Republic – Sono
June 10th – Krakow, Poland – Studio Club
June 11th – Warsaw, Poland – Progresja
June 13th – Hamburg, Germany – Markthalle
June 15th – Copenhagen, Denmark – Amager Bio
June 16th – Gothenburg, Sweden – Pustervik
June 17th – Oslo, Norway – Cosmopolite
June 18th – Stockholm, Sweden – Lilla Cirkus

***
With NMB’s previous two releases being concept albums, it’s perhaps remarkable that Innocence & Danger is a series of unrelated songs, but drummer Mike Portnoy says “After two sprawling back to back double concept albums in a row, it was refreshing to get back to writing a collection of unrelated individual songs in the vein of our first album.”
 
Indeed, making this album came easy to the band; while the initial inspiration came particularly from Bill Hubauer (keyboards) and Randy George (bass), the ideas flowed from everybody from there on, as George recalls: “I am excited about the level of collaboration that we achieved on this one. We even went in with a lot of ideas that weren’t necessarily developed, and I think in the end we have something that represents the best of everybody in the band.”
 
In fact – like its two acclaimed predecessors – Innocence & Danger is a double album by inspiration, rather than design, as Portnoy explains: “As much as we wanted to try and keep it to a single album after having just done two double albums, we wrote so much material that we found ourselves with our third double album in a row! That’s pretty prog!”
 
There is also plenty in Innocence & Danger to excite those prog fans who have a thirst for epics, as Neal Morse explains: “There’s one half hour epic and another that’s about 20 minutes long. I really didn’t realize that they were that long when we were recording them, which I guess is great because if a movie is really good, you don’t realize that it’s three hours long! But there are also some shorter songs: some have poppier elements, some are heavier and some have three part acoustic sections. I’m excited about all of it, really.”
 
NMB (Neal Morse Band) is
Neal Morse (vocals, keyboards and guitars)
Mike Portnoy (drums, vocals)
Randy George (bass)
Eric Gillette (guitars, vocals)
Bill Hubauer (keyboards, vocals)NMB ONLINE:www.facebook.com/The-Neal-Morse-Band
www.instagram.com/thenealmorsebandofficial
www.twitter.com/nealmorseband1

INSIDEOUT MUSIC online:www.insideoutmusic.com
www.youtube.com/InsideOutMusicTV
www.facebook.com/InsideOutMusic
www.twitter.com/InsideOutUSA
InsideOutMusic.Store
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Big Big Train’s Apollo

Big Big Train release new instrumental single ‘Apollo’
Track taken from forthcoming album Common Ground due out July 30th
“Apollo” is the second track to be taken from Big Big Train’s forthcoming album ‘Common Ground’ due out on July 30th, 2021 on English Electric Recordings. The new album, recorded during the worldwide pandemic, sees the band continue their tradition of dramatic narratives but also tackles issues much closer to home, such as the Covid lockdowns, the separation of loved ones, the passage of time, deaths of people close to the band and the hope that springs from a new love.  “Apollo” is a seven-minute plus instrumental written by Big Big Train drummer Nick D’Virgilio and will be an undoubted highlight when the band tour in 2022. “When the time came to start coming up with ideas for the next BBT album, I felt very strongly that we should include a quintessential instrumental track. I wanted to write the band’s version of Genesis’s Los Endos and to make a track that really showed off the talent of all the amazing musicians in this band. I knew that the team could totally play anything I threw at them, and boy, did they prove me right! I thought about the unique instrumentation of BBT. We have so many wonderful ‘voices’ to play with and I wanted every one of them in this song. In the big end bit, I can totally envisage the crowd with their hands in the air going back n forth, all of the lights and haze on the stage, the band just absolutely slamming, the crowd singing along with the melody the BBT brass ensemble is playing, until we reach a glorious end.” 
Watch the video for “Apollo” here:
https://youtu.be/88HHhbD1vFE
Tracklisting:1. The Strangest Times
2. All The Love We Can Give
3. Black With Ink
4. Dandelion Clock
5. Headwaters
6. Apollo
7. Common Ground
8. Atlantic Cable
9. Endnotes
‘Common Ground’ is available for pre-order now as Double Vinyl, CD, and Bandcamp Download at these sites:
https://burningshed.com/store/bigbigtrain
https://bigbigtrain.bandcamp.com

‘Common Ground’ sees the band taking in wider musical and lyrical inspiration from artists such as Elbow, Pete Townshend, Tears For Fears, Elton John and XTC, as well as acknowledging their more progressive roots. As ever, Big Big Train will take listeners on a journey, be it waiting for the UK 5pm pandemic press conferences (’The Strangest Times’) to the library of Alexandria (‘Black With Ink’) to the bottom of the ocean (‘Atlantic Cable’).
 
For the ‘Common Ground’ tour, which will be their most extensive to date and which will culminate in the UK with a show at the prestigious London Palladium, Greg Spawton (bass), David Longdon (lead vocals, flute), Nick D’Virgilio (drums, vocals) and Rikard Sjöblom (guitars, keyboards, vocals) will be joined by Carly Bryant (keyboards, guitars, vocals), who contributes vocals to ‘Common Ground’, Dave Foster (guitars), who plays on two tracks on the new album, Clare Lindley (violin, vocals) and by a five piece brass ensemble. The band expect to announce North American tour dates shortly.
 
BIG BIG TRAIN UK TOUR 2022
 
TUE, MARCH 15TH – YORK, BARBICAN
WED, MARCH 16TH – CAMBRIDGE, CORN EXCHANGE
FRI, MARCH 18TH – BIRMINGHAM, SYMPHONY HALL
SAT, MARCH 19TH – BATH, FORUM
MON, MARCH 21ST – GLASGOW, ROYAL CONCERT HALL
TUE, MARCH 22ND – MANCHESTER, BRIDGEWATER HALL
WED, MARCH 23RD – LONDON, PALLADIUM
 
TICKETS ON SALE HERE:
https://myticket.co.uk/artists/big-big-train
 

Big Big Train was initially founded in 1990 and went through several line-up changes, but in 2009 the band decided on a fresh start, and the core of the current version of the band was born. Since then, they have gone on to win four Progressive Music Awards, played sold out shows and seen their last album, 2019’s ‘Grand Tour’, reach #1 in the Official UK rock charts and break into the top 40 in the Official UK album charts. The band toured the UK for the first time in 2019, culminating in a sold out show at London’s Hackney Empire, subsequently released as the critically acclaimed Blu-ray ‘Empire’, and 2022 will see the band performing their largest UK tour to date along with their first ever dates in North America. 
 
BIG BIG TRAIN online:
www.bigbigtrain.com
https://www.facebook.com/bigbigtrain/
https://twitter.com/bigbigtrain

Evership’s THe Uncrowned King Act I Rules!

Evership

A few posts back, I passed along the news that Evership was about to release a new album, The Uncrowned King. Well, it is now available, and it is the best work they have done.

The Uncrowned King is a concept album based on an allegorical story by Harold Bell Wright of the same title. It’s basically a very brief Pilgrim’s Progress, and since it’s in the public domain you can read it for free here. I highly recommend listeners take a few minutes to read through the story, because the album won’t make a lot of sense if you don’t. The story involves twin princes of a kingdom who take very different paths. In the end, they both learn that “The Crown is not the kingdom, nor is one King because he wears a Crown.”

Musically, The Uncrowned King is the most accomplished and adventurous achievement of Shane Atkinson and Beau West yet. Fans of melodic prog will love every song. There are hints of classic Boston, Styx, and Kansas throughout, while Atkinson’s unerring ear for a beautiful melody keeps Evership’s sound sui generis. Standout tracks are “The Tower” and the epic “Yettocome/Itmightbe”.

Beau West has been a phenomenal vocalist since the debut album, but his singing on The Uncrowned King is simply amazing. He is blessed with some awesome pipes, and Atkinson’s compositions give him plenty of space to wield them.

There have been several outstanding prog albums released in the past few months, and The Uncrowned King is definitely a contender for the best of 2021. Here’s the official video for the Overture:

Spirit Of Cecilia Takes On The Most Dangerous Woman In America!

laurameade-2020-16

Brad: One of the lead singers of the incredibly good and powerful prog band, IZZ, Laura Meade, has just released an incredibly good and powerful art rock album, The Most Dangerous Woman in America

From its opening moments with a couple singing on the Seine to its closing notes of deep melancholic reflection, the album just moves and moves and moves and continues to move. Indeed, if there’s any flaw, the album is simply breathless. Or, rather, the listener is breathless at the end of each listen.  There’s just so much going on, and Meade has one of the single best voices in rock today. This, of course, is a great thing, and even after ten to fifteen listens, I’m still utterly captivated by the music and the story. Driven by piano and bass throughout, The Most Dangerous Woman in America sounds like little else, though I hear echoes of Tori Amos and Talk Talk and some 1980s style atmospherics. 

Whatever it borrows from others, though, this album is a work of unique genius.

Exactly who is The Most Dangerous Woman in America?  Meade never reveals, and, far from being frustrating, the mystery of the identity of the lead singer continues to intrigue, listen after listen.  Given the lyrics, this must’ve been a Hollywood celebrity. But, whether she was an actress or a director or producer (or all three) is unclear.  For now, I’m happy to keep guessing.

By wisely keeping the identity of the protagonist quiet, Meade has created something more akin to myth and allegory than to story and narrative.  Afterall, there may just be many possible dangerous women in America, women who once ruled the world but were soon forgotten.

Tad: Brad, thank you for putting this album on my radar; I wasn’t aware of it, and I am a big IZZ fan!

According to Laura’s official site, the album is about a woman who took a brave stand, and paid a price. In her own words, 

“There have been so many people throughout history – many of them women – who stand up for themselves, stand up for what they believe in, and experience great pain and suffering for doing so, their memories and voices lost along the way to gossip and rumor. I hope that this album, in some small way, honors and gives voice to the forgotten.” (From http://www.laurameademusic.com/about.html)

John Galgano, bassist for IZZ, collaborated with Laura, and I think that accounts for the emphasis on that instrument. Like you, I love Laura’s voice; thankfully, she does not sing in that faux-innocent folkie style that dominates pop music these days. Laura isn’t afraid to use her impressive range of voice, moving from hushed to full-blast power in the space of a few bars. 

While the album gets off to a slow start, in my opinion, the patient listener is rewarded with the extraordinary closing quartet of tracks: the title track, “The Shape of Shock”, “Forgive Me”, and the brief “Tell Me, Love”. “Forgive Me” is the song that I keep coming back to, with its exotic, almost middle-eastern feel. Its melody spirals up and up with unrelenting force, like a modern “Kashmir”. It’s definitely the highlight of the album for me.

IZZ’s last album, Don’t Panic, was one of my favorites of 2019, and Laura Meade’s The Most Dangerous Woman In America is a worthy successor. It has certainly brightened my 2021!

Here is the video for the first single of TMDWIA, “Burned At The Stake”:

Evership To Release Third Album

Evership

It’s been a long wait, but we can now rejoice: Evership (Shane Atkinson & Beau West) is set to release a new album, The Uncrowned King, Act I. If you haven’t heard their previous work, every self-respecting fan of melodic, intellectually stimulating prog rock owes it to him or herself to give them a listen.

From their latest newsletter is this teaser:

Album 3 is the first half of a Rock Opera adaptation of the 1910 book by Harold Bell Wright called The Uncrowned King. This story is an allegory in the style of The Pilgrim’s Progress but with a story arch of Twain’s Prince and the Pauper meets Dicken’s Christmas Carol. 

A pilgrim on a search for Truth arrives at the Temple of Truth with questions about the journey. In answer, the Keeper of the Temple retires him to The Quiet Room, overlooking The Beautiful Sea, where he is visited by the The Four Voices of Life. Each Voice tells him a piece of a story entitled “The Uncrowned King”, to give answer to his questions.

Rich with imagery, Shane has adapted the story faithfully to a progressive rock format we believe our fans will enjoy. Broken into two releases, the story is an allegory on the nature of truth. It is a statement that real truth cannot be derived solely by the senses, but it is more transcendent and one must be courageous in its pursuit and consequence.

Sounds like a fascinating premise for a concept, and I can’t wait to hear it. You can preorder The Uncrowned King, Act I here.

Meanwhile, while you’re waiting, enjoy listening to “Ultima Thule” from their debut album:

Rhiannon Giddens with Francesco Turrisi, “They’re Calling Me Home”

Rhiannon Giddens & Francesco Turrisi’s There Is No Other was one of my favorite albums of 2019. Reviewing it, I described it as

A sweep of traditions and times woven together . . . one of those albums that Duke Ellington might termed ‘beyond category,’ resonating with the core of our shared humanity.

Giddens and Turrisi’s breathtaking new effort They’re Calling Me Home does it again. Recorded in Ireland under lockdown conditions with limited guests, the duo spin shimmering sonic webs with viola, banjo, guitar, accordion and hand percussion, enlivening a brilliantly eclectic gamut of spirituals, folk songs, hymns, Baroque arias and striking originals.

And as always, Giddens’ incomparable voice compels your attention, tracing the commonalities of these variegated songs across the centuries — caressing Monteverdi’s “Si dolce e’l Tormento” and the Anglo-Appalachian “When I Was in My Prime,” testifying to a hope beyond reason on “I Shall Not Be Moved,” staring down mortality itself on a vehement, haunted version of “O Death:”

Separated from their extended families in North Carolina and Italy by the pandemic, Giddens and Turrisi have made, essentially, an album of laments; They’re Calling Me Home faces up to the spectres of separation (temporary and permanent) that continue to stalk our world. But strengthened by the confrontation, they — and we — come out the other side refreshed, able to rejoice in the life and love still there for us to find and cherish.

Buy They’re Calling Me Home at Nonesuch Records; listen to it below:

— Rick Krueger

Frost* Heats Up

Album_Cover

Frost*’s upcoming album, Day and Age, showed up in the DropBox this past weekend, and considering their last one, Falling Satellites, was one of my top 5 of 2016, I immediately plugged it into the USB port of my home stereo. After eight consecutive listens and picking my jaw up off the floor, I have to state up front that Day and Age is Jem Godfrey, John Mitchell, and Nathan King’s finest achievement. Ever.

The album opens with the title track, and it is a galloping monster straight out of the gate. A young boy tells the listener to “enjoy yourselves, you scum!”, a relentless beat is established, and one of the most addictive keyboard/guitar riffs ever recorded takes charge. I think Frost* must have been listening to a lot of Synchronicity-era Police before writing this song, because it reminds me of that massive, tense, steamroller of a song, “Synchronicity II”. It is a masterpiece of controlled chaos that builds inexorably for nearly 12 minutes. There’s even a little ska-like section at the 5:33 mark that makes the Police invocation explicit. However, in a battle of the bands, Frost* would beat the pants off Messrs. Sumner, Copeland, and Summers. This is an incredible track, and after I heard it for the first time, I wondered if the rest of the album could possibly hit the high bar it set.

Frost*_Photo_2
King, Godfrey, and Mitchell are Frosted*

I need not have worried, as every song on Day and Age is equally strong. There is not a single clunker on the album. I don’t what lit a fire under John Mitchell, but his vocals have never sounded more impassioned (and he’s sung quite a few songs with a lot of passion!). The core of the group is Jem Godfrey (keyboards, vocals), John Mitchell (guitars, bass, vocals), and Nathan King (bass, keyboards, vocals). They have enlisted the talents of three different drummers – Pat Mastelotto, Darby Todd, and Kaz Rodriguez – and each one provides perfect support depending on the needs of the song.

“Terrestrial” is the first single, and it is a great choice – melodic, energetic, and leaving the listener wanting more:

“Waiting for the Lie” is a keyboard-based ballad that provides a nice respite from the fast-paced previous tracks. It features a beautiful melody that is allowed to shine through a no-frills production. “The Boy Who Stood Still” is a spoken-word allegory about a boy who, you guessed it, stood still. So still, that he disappeared. The narrator tells the tale over an infectious bed of ’80s – era synths and skittering drums. It sounds weird, but it is oddly attractive.

“Island Life” begins with some waves on the beach as washes of synths and some arpeggiated guitar (there’s that classic Police vibe again!) as Mitchell sings of escaping a dreary life and “living in this island life”. “Skywards” is my second-favorite song (after the title track), with some especially beautiful chord progressions in the melody. You think you know where it’s going, and it takes an unexpected turn and ends up even better than you anticipated.

Wait, did I say “Skywards” was my second-favorite song? I actually meant “Killing the Orchestra”! An electric piano and delicate vocals introduce this one, and it gradually builds into a mini-symphony that includes Mitchell’s best guitar solo of the album. It is nine and half minutes of musical bliss that segues immediately into the closing track, “Repeat to Fade”, that reprises some of the themes from the title track. This is a terrifically dense and claustrophobic track that features Mitchell hollering, “Enjoy yourselves, you scum!” Sounds oppressive, I know, except that the melody is very uplifting and makes the dark atmosphere bearable.

Nathan King recalls the writing and recording of “Repeat to Fade”: “We were 30 feet by the sea, next to a nuclear power station and a lighthouse, in midwinter! …in my head you can absolutely hear the bleak isolated oppression having an effect on us.”

The recording conditions may not have been ideal, but Jem, Nathan, and John have managed to produce a pop/prog masterpiece of an album from them. I’ve listened to it a dozen times now, and I find new delights every time.

Day and Age will be released on May 14, 2021 on InsideOut Music. You can preorder it here: https://frost-band.lnk.to/DayAndAge