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Broken Records – Until the Earth Begins to Part

Broken Records - Until the Earth Begins to Part

4AD, 2009
[rating:7.5/10]

How can you not love an album bookended with arppegiated strings, with some of the best mandolin and cello sequences this side of classic 1990’s R.E.M., and filled with titles such as “If The News Makes You Sad, Don’t Watch It” or “If Eilert Loevborg Wrote A Song, It Would Sound Like This”? Bands with propensities for this brand of tomfoolery are usually cast aside as novelties, but Broken Records are, and absolutely should be, exceptions to this rule.

They seem to fit best into an otherwise uncharted sub-category of Scottish indie pop-rock acts which, for argument’s sake, could be called “Impassioned Melancholy Post-Theatrical Rock” with groups such as Idlewild, Frightened Rabbit and Twilight Sad brandishing the leader’s torch. The main difference with Broken Records is the immediate importance they bring; whereas other groups have needed several albums to find their voice, Broken Records has a built-in sense of urgency and maturation. They skip right over similar bands’ pratfalls such as melodrama, overt indignation, and pomposity to deliver exactly what most music listeners are looking for. Which is, ironically enough, good music.

From the first seventy seconds of the album, comparisons to Arcade Fire seem warranted. Repetitive, slightly-atonal notes play underneath a simmering, hopeful stew of accordion, strings and keyboards before a lusty arrangement of cellos, violins and horns take over and cue Jamie Sutherland’s robust lead vocals. The first track, “Nearly Home”, spans five and a half minutes and never takes a breath, distilling more visceral beauty in a single cut than most bands manage in an entire album. Fascinatingly, the song ends as delicately as it begins and without pausing, transitions into a bass-hefty, 4/4 romp. Yet in another three minutes, as fast as the brawling rock section appears, it’s replaced with a piano-led serenade and the circle of art is complete. This sort of upbeat shift in sound is common in Broken Records’ shows, often encouraging random episodes of dancing amongst the crowd.

What’s unique within the scope of this hodge-podge sound is how well each idea is fleshed out. The whispy, Coldplay-esque chorus gives way to a Flogging Molly stomp, but none of it feels out of place. Broken Records establishes their sound, and finishes each thought, before starting over again on the next track.

It’s easy to write off Until the Earth Begins to Part as self-indulgent parodies of other more successful bands. The formula is nothing new, the lyrics aren’t world-shattering and the usage of so many instruments might bore some listeners. But what separates it is the band’s intensity. This is music for the end of the world, a band that knows what it likes and sticks with it. It’s set apart from quotidian indie acts playing what people want to hear, rather than a band playing what it’s good at. Listeners truly looking for this type of sincerity can settle in, because Broken Records have it to spare.

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making a little birdhouse in his soul

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