Published on May 11th, 2010 | by Lisa McInerney1
Review: Stornoway – Beachcomber’s Windowsill
They say timing is everything – magic in the right moment, and power to be had in its harnessing. And it’s this knowledge that made reviewing Stornoway’s rabidly-awaited debut Beachcomber’s Windowsill so satisfying; the indie-folk scene is blossoming, the days are getting longer, we’re all making eyes at new garden furniture and drawing outdoor Sundays in the air … this is the perfect summer album, and this is Stornoway’s time.
‘Course, I wrote about the lads before, and hopefully a few of you had the good sense to grab an earful while they were traipsing the ould sod. Brian, John, Oliver and Robert (and sometimes Adam and Rahul) are a bunch of clever clogs with marvellous cheekbones from Oxford who make music that is three parts folk, one part chamber pop, and utterly, utterly loveable. Beachcomber’s Windowsill is “a collection of bits and bobs that we’ve accumulated over the past few years,” according to frontman Brian, but that’s a summary as deceptive as it is endearingly haphazard; it’s not like Beachcomber’s Windowsill lurches from track to track in a kooky haze. This is a bloody tight debut. This is an album, after all, that auditioned record companies, an album that the lads considered releasing themselves, just so they wouldn’t have to tidy it up and even it out, and risk losing the character of the home-recorded tracks. This is a band, after all, that even unsigned could sell out Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre. If anything, Beachcomber’s Windowsill is much plumper than the sum of its parts.
Because Beachcomber’s Windowsill is on the folky side of indie-pop, and because shure Jaysus we’re all Celts here, there’s something both thrilling and comforting about being drawn to the kind of sound you rejected for so long because you could never imagine anything reminiscent of trad could be clever, or bouncy, or stirring. Stornoway sound like The Beatles holidaying in a rural choir, The Beach Boys* in chunky knits; even the name Stornoway, after the Hebridean town of shipping forecast fame, cheekily hints that there’s an ethos to this baptism. Starting with the instantly-hummable (and, ooh, just a little bit epic) Zorbing, we’re plunged into giddy sunshine and left to bask all the way up to its gentle retreat at Long Distance Lullaby. Whether chanting along to the cheerfully bitter We Are The Battery Human, or closing our eyes to the heart-bursting progression of On The Rocks, all the way through we’re courted by melody or delighted by unexpected touches … there’s a kazoo at one stage! Christ, you’d be quite happy to leave this on repeat until your neighbours were hanging over your garden fence and singing along despite mouthfuls of evening midges.
And with the lads due to play Electric Picnic this year, that’s exactly how you lucky summery sorts will hear ’em.
Go on, so. Here’s Zorbing, just in case you’re not yet convinced.
Beachcomber’s Windowsill is released on 24th May from 4AD.
*And yes, I know this is the second time I’ve likened a new folk artist to displaced Beach Boys. It’s not my fault they were so influential, alright?