Elbow "Little Fictions"

New love opens up the possibilities of the world, restoring faith in oneself and the future. Old love offers consistency and a sense of self. Both forms of love pulse in the beating heart of Little Fictions. For six albums and a quarter century Elbow had maintained the same line-up, a quintet that seemed to anticipate each other’s next move. It’s a tight group connected by love, trust, and a singular vision. Following the release of the band’s 2015 release The Take Off and Landing of Everything drummer Richard Jupp left the band. Concurrently lead singer and songwriter Guy Garvey found new love and married.

Elbow regrouped for their seventh album, opting not to replace Jupp. It’s an interesting choice especially being that this is the band’s most beat-heavy, rhythmic album, but it maintains the integrity of the band’s core sound. Rhythm is supplied by piano, bass, and a menagerie of percussive elements. Keyboardist Craig Potter, who also produced, programmed drum tracks, and two drummers were employed. Little Fictions highlights the precision and musicianship of the band through leaner arrangements that give individual instruments space to breathe. The patterned clicking of guitars and syncopated plunking of piano creates mesmerizing yet unobtrusive beds for Guy Garvey’s languid vocals.    

Elbow’s reputation for soaring melodies that get swept up in lush orchestration and full-throated choirs is tempered but not entirely absent. The Manchester-based Hallé Orchestra and their accompanying choir and The London Contemporary Chorus offer mostly subtle flourishes to several tracks, but it is Guy Garvey’s sublime lyrics and passionate performance that make these songs feel epic in scope. His language is exquisitely evocative while maintaining a sense of mystique. His voice reflects his forty years of living yet retains an elegant beauty enhanced by delicate phrasing. The songs on Little Fictions reflect a mature type of love that, despite blooming in middle-age, brings a renewed sense of wonder and joy.

Rosemary Welsch (The Afternoon Mix)