Elbow "The Take Off And Landing Of Everything"

Comes a time in most band’s lives that experimentation is a given. After five studio albums and following on the heels of its dark Build a Rocket, Boys, U.K. band Elbow takes a slight turn in direction. Although the quintet gets songwriting credit as a unit, the music for The Take Off And Landing Off Everything was created separately before individual ideas were merged in the studio. On the advice of an Abbey Road engineer,  band members also recorded their parts separately, allowing more distinct artistic expression within the group. The resulting songs are brighter in nature than on its predecessor and offer divergent patterns from the band’s more recent signature sound.

Elbow has always had a penchant for the dramatic flair of strings and horns, but here those elements are tempered. Syncopated electronic beats and slinky organ are foundations for song that are stripped of their fleshy production, revealing the bones of vocal harmony and plucky guitar chords. Consider “Honey Sun” a track that distinguishes the space between the varied instruments and voices, delivering a sparse sensibility rarely heard in Elbow’s catalog of elegant elaborate production. The album’s tone is set by the sublime, subdued opener “This Blue World.” Its plaintive melody sails upon an ebb and flow of guitar, electronic keyboard, and tapped percussion. “My Sad Captains” is highlighted by a distant trumpet and church-like organ, while Guy Garvey’s voice, artfully seasoned, rumbles in harmony with his lone lead vocal.

As the lone lyricist, Garvey plumbs the deepening emotional reservoirs that gather at the mouth of middle age. Broken relationships, lengthening friendships, and thoughts on mortality are reflected in his poetry. Many of the album’s songs grow out of his experience of living a bi-coastal lifestyle, ie, Manchester to Brooklyn. Flight, both its beginning and end, are used as metaphor for love and break-ups, life and death. For the single “New York Morning” Garvey directly lifted an entry from his diary. Written after a transatlantic night flight, a jet-lagged Garvey captures the spirit of the awakening city as he sit in The Moonstruck Café (named for the movie Moonstruck). “Fly Boy/Lunette” captures plane travel exhaustion and frustration with blaring saxophone, screechy guitar, and plunking bass.

As the band’s lone singer Garvey’s voice is central to every song. His tenor is rich but weathered at the edges, a warm familiar sound that is both comforting and authoritative. It’s this quality that makes him so apt at conveying wistful insights that balance between epiphany and resignation.

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix)