Start compiling your 2004 Trebblie ballots now lest you forget one of the best releases of the year. Most labels, knowing just how powerful even a Trebblie nomination can be, release their best albums in the late fall and winter. (Hah!) But the A&R guys at A&M just couldn’t wait to let American fans of British pop get their hands on this one. Gary Lightbody and the rest of his Irish / Scottish foursome, called Snow Patrol, have released a subtle masterpiece of an album called Final Straw.
The first two Snow Patrol albums, Songs for Polar Bears and When It’s All Over We Still Have to Clear Up, dropped on America with a whimper, but started pulling in British indie kids by the lorry load. Lightbody’s side project, Reindeer Section, was actually somewhat more successful in the States. All that’s about to change, however, with this new album which is priced to move and ready to garner fans.
Final Straw combines so many successful pop elements that it’s easy at first to spot influences or at least similarities to other groups. I’ve always believed that an album must be listened to twice to even start to fully appreciate it. I bought Final Straw on its release date of March 30 and have listened to it twice a day, every day, since then. Certain songs I have listened to even more than that, nearly wearing out the previous track button on my car stereo.
“How to be Dead” and “Chocolate” shows similarities to the Doves while first single “Run” is most akin to Coldplay’s “Yellow” sans the Buckley pitch. Lightbody evokes Pete Yorn in the second track “Wow”, but still somehow manage to distance himself enough to sound like no one but himself. There are even moments in the album when you could swear that My Bloody Valentine leader Kevin Shields decided to sit in and play guitar.
The best track on the album, in my humble opinion, is the bombastic and quietly grandiose “Somewhere a Clock is Ticking”. And although this might sound like it could be another Coldplay imitation, it really isn’t. The closest thing that it comes to is a combination of Death Cab for Cutie’s track “Transatlanticism” and the lyrics of Clearlake’s “I’d Like to Hurt You”. The rising “Ahh-ahhh-ah-ah’s” of the backup vocals combining with hushed layered vocals like “I could do most anything to you,” alongside driving guitars makes for an amazing swell of mixed emotions. The best point comes at 2:08 into it when the song hits the stratosphere with a crunch and a lilt of violin.
At this point I’m not quite sure while you’re still reading this and not out at your local record outlet picking up a copy of this album. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.
Doves- The Last Broadcast
Coldplay- A Rush of Blood to the Head
My Bloody Valentine- Loveless