Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Album Review: Black Country, New Road - Ants From Up There

Black Country, New Road
Ants From Up There
**and1/2 out of *****

The second album titled Ants From Up There from the London based Black Country, New Road is a mix of audacious folk rock, depressively broken hearts, and scattered dreams. The band: Isaac Wood, Tyler Hyde, Lewis Evans, Georgia Ellery, May Kershaw, Charlie Wayne, and Luke Mark use a mix of violins, sax, guitars, and drums to craft an understated/overstated effort that moves into larger pastures in it's own time. 

Opening with a string and brass instrumental the group sets the tone before the first single "Chaos Space Marine" rolls out with quirky sounds, theatrical singing and big flair in the vein of Arcade Fire. That Canadian outfit looms large over Ants From Up There as the long climatic offerings of "The Place Where He Inserted The Blade" and "Snow Globes", both hugely theatrical adventures, are straight out the Arcade Fire's school of dramatic abundance. 

Shifting gears a bit, one of the early highlights is "Concorde" which starts with slow twinkling strings until the marching drums start and the song builds to a rising finale but never explodes fully. That sense of push pull, overdoing vs. restraint is everywhere as songs leave the listener wanting more or overwhelmed. It can also be a slight detriment as a cool offering like "Good Will Hunting" bounces then retreats, then tries to get it going again, when a rising over the top would push the song into the rafters. 

At times things can just drift into a mellowness that flirts too closely with background music or bombard the senses, sometimes from measure to measure. The lyrics can be odd and really take away from some of the instrumentation around them, case in point is "Bread Song". The track has an engaging Frightened Rabbit like tension, but lyrically Wood oscillates bizarrely between singing about, lost love, phones/wifi and literal bread/toast crumbs in bed. 

Better are the dynamic builds, violin lines and smooth sax that dominate "Haldern", the most fully formed offering here. Closer "Basketball Shoes" also goes long and big again in the Arcade Fire vein with swells, bangs, whispers and extended plucking. Putting it mildly, there is a lot going on with these songs and while there are flashes of majesty there are also bewildering changes and overblown pomp.  

With the release of the album the band announced front man Isaac Wood, who sings throughout with a Nick Cave sadness, would be leaving the group citing mental health issues, so while the future of the group is in flux, theses London based art-folk artists have delivered a meditative exhale and worried sense of self with Ants From Up There
Support the artists, buy the album and peep some video below:

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