Deciding which band would take the number one spot and which band would be relegated to number two this year was particularly difficult. I love the band at #2: Manchester, England’s Elbow. And their 2014 album, The Take Off and Landing of Everything — their sixth — is by far my favorite of all their recordings. Even when I started writing this review, I waffled, thinking, “Maybe the band at #1 should be #2 and this album should be #1.” Talk to me tomorrow, or next week, or next month, and I might actually regret having not made this album #1. But here we are, at #2, which is a perfectly fine place for any band to be.
This band, and this album, are all about subtlety. Sure, there are plenty of bombastic moments, full of horns, strings, and keyboards. But it’s the quieter moments, of which there are many, that move this album to the near-top of the list. There’s the lazy beat of “This World Blue,” which hesitates for what feels like an eternity two minutes into the song (at 2:05, specifically), and then again at 4:29. Only then does the full sound of the song hit you, and there’s nearly 3 minutes of song left to go.
And then there’s “Fly Boy Blue/Lunette,” which I posted the video for way back in January. There’s that seminal moment, 3 minutes and 7 seconds into the song, when the key changes, the timing changes, and it becomes a completely different song yet somehow, impossibly, holds together.
Take “My Sad Captains,” which is featured in the video above. At six minutes, it comes in just over the average of all the songs on the album (that average being 5 minutes, 43.5 seconds across all 10 songs), and yet you want it to go on longer. It’s slow, methodical, and beautiful in its telling of “missing my friends that have dropped out of the drinking culture that we all met in, or moved away, or died,” as lead singer/lyricist Guy Garvey said in an interview in Q magazine back in February 2014. If you’re over 35, you’ve experienced that sort of life change, and the song just resonates unbelievably well.
There are quite a few videos the band has created for this album. In addition to “Fly Boy Blue/Lunette” and “My Sad Captains” (above), three other videos can be found:
A couple friends and I had a little Memorial Day Weekend adventure this year to make sure we were able to see Elbow in concert. The band was coming through town to play Sasquatch, and there was no way we were going to be able to go there. So instead we bought tickets for the band’s Vancouver, BC performance at the Commodore Ballroom. It was worth the trip. Garvey is a consummate showman, crooning and gesturing to the crowd, working the stage, bringing us all along with him. There were no horns touring with the band, which was a little bit of a letdown, but the rest of the band was able to fill in those missing parts from the new album, substituting in keyboards and guitars. The Commodore is a great space, similar in layout to the Showbox Market, but a bit larger. It was the perfect spot for the band.
This album is gorgeous from start to finish, and I could be quite happy if I only had this one album to listen to for the rest of my days. If you’ve not heard of Elbow before, your first reaction will be “Damn, they sound so much like Peter Gabriel,” and you could be forgiven for thinking that. But that feeling dies pretty quickly as you start to identify these songs as Elbow songs. The Take Off and Landing of Everything is a great place to start your new obsession. Then move onto The Seldom Seen Kid, their Mercury-prize winning, platinum-selling 2008 album. Then branch out from there. 2011’s Build a Rocket Boys! was ranked on the Top 31 at #5 in 2011. Leaders of the Free World, from 2005, is phenomenal as well. SO MUCH GOOD MUSIC. And it’s all there for the taking. Hop to it.
3. They Want My Soul by Spoon
4. Are We There by Sharon Van Etten
5. And The War Came by Shakey Graves
6. Nicky Nack by tUnE-yArDs
7. Not Art by Big Scary
8. The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett by Eels
9. Owl John by Owl John
10. LP1 by FKA Twigs
11. Black Hours by Hamilton Leithauser
12. Give the People What They Want by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings
13. Lost in the Dream by The War On Drugs
14. Warpaint by Warpaint
15. Heal by Strand of Oaks
16. Stay Gold by First Aid Kit
17. This is All Yours by ∆
18. Brill Bruisers by The New Pornographers
19. Only Run by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
20. Augustines by Augustines
21. El Pintor by Interpol
22. I Never Learn by Lykke Li
23. Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes by Thom Yorke
24. The Voyager by Jenny Lewis
25. Voices by Phantogram
26. Morning Phase by Beck
27. Hungry Ghosts by OK Go
28. Run the Jewels 2 by Run the Jewels
29. Cosmos by Yellow Ostrich
30. Teeth Dreams by The Hold Steady
31. With Light & With Love by Woods