The mood of the album is pretty autumnal. According to the press release, the album documents a decade through the eyes of a boy from rural Essex colliding with London (for those who have not experienced one or neither, this makes for a quite impressive cultural clash, even allowing for the fact that, geographically, the two places are not too far apart).
Though life for most people will provide ups and downs, like the continued linear line of life the album flows together mostly as one, especially in terms of mood. At 14 tracks and just under an hour long, there are moments where some tracks just seem secondary to the project as a whole. However, Hirst is a strong songwriter, and his willingness to experiment with the arrangements means that this is not just another singer-songwriter album. On the contrary, there’s selected use of electronica on some tracks – and he avoids the trap of falling into the dreaded folk-tronica trap. There’s also some highly effective (and affecting) use of colliery brass and a 19th-century pedal organ. These effects are used sparingly, meaning that a balance is found between a musical flavouring and drowning the songs in excessive noise that would detract.
Like a number of albums from the CD era onwards, there are parts when the album seems to dip and the listener’s attention wanders. This is a shame as the two opening tracks on the album ‘Boxers’ and ‘All Fall By’ are utterly wonderful. But towards the end of the album, the listener is left heartbroken by ‘Untitled’ (it may be chickening out as a title, but the title is really the only fault that can be found with it) and the closing ‘Distant Fields.’
Now that we’re officially into British Winter Time, there’s much here to provide an accompaniment to those cold evenings.