Monday 5th May: In my last post, I was bemoaning the apparent lack of quality in the live music scene in York. I’m glad to say, however, that York (and it’s near environs) is still producing some excellent bands and, consequently, some good CD releases. So far this year, I have bought five CDs from York (or near-York) bands. Three of those have been released this year. Indeed, two of those three have been debut releases. My latest purchase is the self-titled debut album by Elliot Minor.
The five members of Elliot Minor are all classically trained musicians and three of them are also former choristers. They have, essentially, formed a boy-band, albeit one which writes its own material and have produced an album which is a fusion of bouncy pop, rock and orchestral string arrangements. The result is a catchy, infectious pop-rock album with hints of Queen and E.L.O. and (sadly) a touch of McFly-like vocals. (The boys actually supported McFly in 2007, but I suspect that their live show, probably without the orchestral sound, is slightly different to their recorded sound.)
While listening to the CD today, I tried to make notes on all the tracks, so that I could write a track-by-track review similar to the recent one I did for Glass Shadows. It’s perhaps a little telling that I struggled to find original things to say about all of them and my notes became briefer as the album progressed. Yes, the album is pretty similar all the way through, but that isn’t to detract from it. In the main, the songs are pretty good. In fact, I don’t think there’s a duff track on the album.
So, instead of a track-by-track review, here’s a few random thoughts and highlights.
The album credits list Alex Davies as lead vocals and Ed Minton as vocals. I’m afraid to say that Ed’s singing style isn’t quite as good as Alex’s and, while the multi-track vocal style used in some of the songs works well, when Ed’s vocals take the lead, there is a slight reduction in quality of sound.
Dan Hetherton’s drumming, throughout the album, is strong without being overpowering and there is good use of Uilean pipes (the second album in row which I have bought that features these instruments) horns and strings. All the string and orchestral arrangements have been done by Alex, who also has at least a hand in writing all the songs (Ed Minton and Dan Hetherton also appear on song credits, along with non-band member Beni Giles), showing what a talented guy he must be.
My favourite track is the second on the album, and first single, Parallel Worlds. This is a fast-paced, traditional rock song with Queen-influenced guitars. The actual song is short, weighing in at just under three minutes, but the track ends with an orchestral arrangement that sounds vaguely familiar but not in a way that I can put my finger on.
The Liar Is You, opens with a beautiful keyboard introduction (Ali Paul is on keyboards). It’s a ballad-like track to start with, but turns into something much more rocky halfway through and contains the strongest hints of E.L.O. on the album.
Jessica is, perhaps, the track most like a typical boy-band pop song. It’s a bouncy, catchy ode to actress Jessica Alba which cleverly incorporates at least four of her film and TV appearances in the lyrics.
Still Figuring Out is the most annoying song on the album. It contains a really nice guitar solo but is spoiled by over-repetitive lyrics.
Silently is the typical boy band ballad – you can almost pinpoint the place where Westlife would rise up off their stools as the music soars into the finale. Somehow, however, it works on this album.
The final track, Last Call To New York City, is a strong ending to a cracking CD. It manages to combine all the best things of the ten previous tracks (I haven’t commented on four of them) into one song. Bizarrely, it ends with a firework display which works well, despite the obvious lack of visuals.
I sometimes feel the need to (almost) apologise for my musical tastes and I admit that I have a fairly high tolerance for most musical forms. That, together with a lack of basic knowledge of musical techniques, sometimes means that my tastes appear to be a little bizarre to friends and colleagues. In this case, they will just have to accept that, in my opinion, this is the best 2008 album I have bought so far.