Life, seen through my own unique perspective on the world, is made up of two distinct groups of people; those that do good in the world and those who have a greater number of consonants in their name than vowels. I have a natural in-bred suspicion that these folk are simply out to wrong society. I harbour no ill feeling towards Ben Fletcher nor Tom Higham but their amalgamation into the potentially heinous Aquilo has me pondering if they are the work of the Devil. Thankfully, this is not my first encounter with Aquilo, we became acquantained back in 2014 upon the release of ‘You There’ a captivating, evocative plea for acceptance, occasionally as desolate as the Lake District surroundings from which the duo take their inspiration. Following a slow drip feed of singles and EPs, Aquilo are finally seeking to brighten up an otherwise lifeless January with their debut, Silhouettes, 14 tracks of winsome melancholia set to a backdrop of their collective life experience to date.
I’ll be honest, if you’re looking for an album to help you through the New Year rigour at your local gym then Silhouettes offers as much support as a 10 year old sports bra. These tracks are not designed to get the heart pumping wildly, they have been assembled to be enjoyed with a steaming mug of Indonesian java and a Hob-Nob, preferably chocolate. When Aquilo get the balance right then I won’t lie, it triggered something within me. Perhaps I’m starting to go soft because although I know there will be countless better releases this year detailing the petty wastefulness of young love there is something intimately esoteric about the title track and the angelic ‘Blindside‘. Out of the blue, I am transported back to my late teens and that awkward tension that owns your heart when you believe you’re in love. The nearest touchstone is probably Bastille but with a pressing honesty and no little intelligence. OK, so it’s probably going to be the mainstay of Radio 1 playlist throughout 2017 but that isn’t a valid reason to dismiss and ridicule.
The production on each track has been buffed with a lorryload of Mr Sheen but it’s only when the keyboards offer no more than a basic canvas that the vocals really drive a stake through your heart, ably demonstrated on ‘Sorry‘ with the line “I’m reminded of the fool I was/I cut you off and fucked it up again.” If only I had a quid for every occasion I’ve thought that to myself. There is no denying that the vocal delivery can be a little too earnest at times and warbles around like a Blackcap on viagra but don’t worry, we’re nowhere near Wild Beasts level of irritation yet.
However, and there’s nearly always a ‘however’, despite their proficiency it is a tad over-ambitious to include 14 tracks on your debut offering and the overall quality does eventually suffer. ‘Human‘ doesn’t just stray into Coldplay territory, it invades, sets up camp and lights a barbecue. Similarly, ‘All I Ever Wanted’ is an unwelcome slab of Keane memorabilia whilst ‘Almost Over’ builds to a not-so-subtle crescendo that Train would be happy to milk dry. But these minor gripes aside, Aquilo ought to be praised for not taking the simple path to commercial success. There are enough highlights buried within Silhouettes to stop you dead in your tracks and contemplate the futility of human existence. Just don’t drop your Hob-Nob in your coffee.
Silhouettes is released on January 27th on Island Records