17 fév. 2008, 21h11m

I've taken my time to realise it, but Gravenhurst have quietly become one of my favourite bands. Despite already owning it, I only really began to fully appreciate Flashlight Seasons in the summer of 2006, while studying for exams. (I tend to gravitate towards one particular new discovery each time I enter a prolonged period of intense exam revision, but that's another topic.) I enjoy the flow of the album: were I to rewrite my journal on good album openers, Tunnels would feature prominently as a fine example; centrepieces The Diver and The Ice Tree are beautiful pieces of work; and closer Hopechapel Hill gives a definite sense of arriving at journey's end. Although each track is strong, whenever I hear one I want to listen to the rest of the record, because each sounds somehow incomplete on its own.

Having since heard the EP Black Holes in the Sand, I think it works well as a companion piece, especially the track Flashlight Seasons, which, for me, does a good job of encapsulating the feel of the album of the same name.

I took my time getting into second album Fires In Distant Buildings too, and it was only last summer that I figured it out. It's grander than its predecessor - with more challenging passages, the appeal is more complex - and I have to confess to still slightly preferring the more immediate songs like The Velvet Cell (note to there's definitely a 'The' in there, the sleeve says so; it's not just Velvet Cell). The rhythm track on Animals takes me back to late-night train journeys through the Midlands. While happy to listen to Nicole and Cities Beneath the Sea as background music, I find that listening to the album as a whole requires a certain frame of mind, not to mention a lot of attention.

All of which meant that when I heard about the arrival of The Western Lands near the end of last year, I found myself more excited about a release than I had been in a while. It didn't disappoint. To me it sticks more to the formula of their first record, with Saints another fine album opener and Trust and Hourglass the standout tracks from a strong collection. Grand Union Canal develops the sense of urban alienation first found in Animals. The Western Lands grows on me with each listen, and while not yet up there with Flashlight Seasons as one of my favourite records, it's not too far off. With any luck, I'll catch them when they come to South by South West next month.


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