Review: Elbow – Little Fictions

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Magical

Led by the majestic 'Magnificent (She Says),' this is Elbow's most serene and compassionate album to date, even if not a dramatic stylistic shift from their previous work.

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After the departure of long-time drummer Richard Jupp and the marriage of lead singer Guy Garvey, you might expect Elbow to take a departure from soulful, minimalist pieces and triumphant, uplifting anthems such as 2008’s ‘One Day Like This.’ However, Little Fictions leaps straight from the blocks with another such anthem in the soaring lead single ‘Magnificent (She Says).’ Although more charged than previous releases with more synthetic percussion and electric chords replacing strummed acoustics, the brilliant record continues to be more of Elbow being Elbow.

Garvey clearly sings as a man in love, although it is testament to his talent as a vocalist that this comes across as uplifting rather than soppy. In ‘Magnificent (She Says),’ he sanguinely sings alongside the Hallé Orchestra of a young girl finding a message in a bottle on a beach, launching the kind of sublime chorus that Elbow has got down to a science by this point. It is, as its name suggests, magnificent, and the remainder of the album continues to embrace themes of unity, love, and reflection: a more mellow approach comes in ‘Trust The Sun’ and ‘Kindling’; occasional rouses into heavier (and sometimes messy) beats appear with ‘All Disco’ and ‘Little Fictions.’ When successfully balancing their unique brand of excitable percussion, minimalist piano and guitar, and Garvey’s affable vocals, the band expertly conveys these feelings of compassion and togetherness through not only their lyrics but the tone and tune of their songs.

‘K2,’ one of their more keenly written songs, offers an insightful look into the feelings behind last year’s European Union referendum vote (“I’m from a land with an island status / Makes us think that everyone hates us”). Whilst Garvey doesn’t stand back from attacking the divisive role the press played (“And they gambled the farm on a headline”) and damning the vote that was “full of blood, snot and teeth” before joking that he’ll go and live in “a static caravan in the Andes,” the same conclusion is eventually reached here as in every other song on the record: that love and compassion beat all.

Little Fictions is undoubtedly Elbow reconciling a year that saw Britain vote to leave the EU and ushered Trump into the White House. Garvey’s vocals are as bold and upbeat as ever, and the band have in all but a few places perfected their brand of percussion, piano and guitar, aided tremendously by the sublime strings of the Hallé Orchestra. And throughout it all, the album’s central theme that “Love is the original miracle,” sung repeatedly in the titular track, is expertly conveyed in an attempt to put 2016 behind us.

Little Fictions is out now via Polydor

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I play/watch/listen to things, then write about playing/watching/listening to things. Special powers include downing two litres of tea at a time and binging a 13-episode Netflix series in only 12 hours. Records Editor 2018/19 OMG

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