Little Fictions: Love Is The Original Miracle, as reviewed by Rishi Deva
Elbow is a British guitar band that explores emotional sensitivity through its music. Clearly influenced by Peter Gabriel, the progressive rock sounds and styles of Genesis and Kate Bush and the introspection of Radiohead, Elbow nonetheless steers clear of the progressive rock obligatory solos. Instead they embrace the orchestration and grandiose sounds that made prog rock so interesting. While Radiohead explores more of the underbelly, shadows and painful experiences of human existence, Elbow celebrates the human experience with sensitive depiction of memories, growing up, being in love, residing in love and standing for humanity.
Elbow have been around since 1998, signed to several different labels along the way. The first label that picked them up was Island Records, which was purchased by Universal. EMI soon picked them up, but that relationship did not last. After that, Elbow went Indie and then got picked up by Richard Branson’s V2. V2 released Elbow’s first two records, Asleep in the Back and Cast of Thousands. Asleep in the Back was shortlisted for a Mercury Music Prize and was nominated for Best New British Band.
In 2006, Elbow moved to a Polydor subsidiary called Fiction Records (home of The Cure). Elbow now comfortably resides at Polydor Records UK. In 2012, the BBC invited Elbow to create music for the Olympic theme. In 2014 Elbow released The Take Off And Landing Of Everything which debuted in the UK at the top of the charts. Elbow’s track record is colorful, bright and solid.
During these cold winter months, I eagerly anticipate that the heart-opening beauty that I have come to know and love from Elbow will keep me warm well into the spring with their seventh studio album, Little Fictions. Released globally on February 3, its first three singles, Gentle Storm, Disco and Magnificent (She Says) are bright, big, expansive and beautiful tracks that have played on BBC Radio 2 since late January.
The brooding lament Firebrand & Angel is reminiscent in mood and style of a vintage Talk Talk track. The left hand piano and bass, in unison, form a countermelody to the lead vocal, leaving the overall sonic picture sparse and spacious. It is as though a second voice should have been there, but isn’t – a powerful illustration of the ache and emptiness of love gone wrong. The sound is beautiful, yet shaped by the honest pain that comes with failure.
K2, a track likely named after the mountain K2, also known as the Savage Mountain because of its extreme difficulty to climb, explores Britain’s psychological decision to vote for Brexit. With each line of the melody wrapped in a long delay echo from the line before it, it communicates the ongoing reverberation and confusion from a seismic shock. The lyrics, as heady and angry as anything Radiohead might put forward, are a savage indictment of the ignorance and corporate deception that impelled the Brexit vote, but they are softened with gentle orchestration, heart, and Elbow’s quiet determination to continue believing in love and hope.
Montparnasse is a beautiful Elbow-style ballad. It’s poetic, imaginative and interesting. Its pace is too thoughtful, and its textures too sparse, to readily fit any pop radio format, but that is radio’s loss. Montparnasse leads into the title track of the record, Little Fictions, a classic eight-minute track showing Elbow at their finest. Guy Garvey sings, “We protect our little fictions when we bow to fear,” with an outro pleading “All in, love is the original miracle. Love is the original miracle.” Its orchestration illustrates all in, with great double handfuls of piano, bell tones, timpani, strings, snares, percussive scrapes and shuffles, and more, as its sweeping lyrics paint Garvey’s world in a hundred loving details. How can I not be all in?!
Rishi Deva is the CEO of Kupid’s Play Records. With two decades of experience in the music industry, Rishi has been nominated for numerous marketing awards and earned a Gold Record in the music industry for management.