New British ‘Elbow’ album wins with tried and true musical formula

Anthony Graham

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The English band from Manchester, Elbow, has released their fourth album, and like the ones that came before, “The Seldom Seen Kid” is likely to receive plenty of critical acclaim.

The special thing about Elbow’s new album is that it is the first of theirs that they recorded and mixed without any outside help. There is a lot to consider when a band takes full control of the creative reigns for the first time. It is usually a hit-or-miss situation, where the band either comes out with something marked as a huge success or a disappointing failure-there is rarely an in-between.

Since the UK got their hands on “The Seldom Seen Kid” first, it might be prudent to take a look at their reaction. If the UK response to Elbow’s creative control is any indication, you might have to consider their self-produced album the best they’ve made so far. Not only was it praised by all media outlets available, it also debuted at number five in the UK album charts.

The first thing to understand about “The Seldom Seen Kid” is that it is mood music, pure and simple.To put it further, the album sounds an awful lot like something an Indie version of The Dave Matthews Band would put out. It’s the sort of music that amplifies a good mood, or has a shot of taking you out of a bad one. Of course, if you find yourself less than a fan of the Dave Matthews Band then Elbow probably won’t be your thing.

That being said, there are only eleven tracks on Elbow’s new album and an afternoon devoted to giving them a try shouldn’t be an endeavor that is out of the question. They do have a single available for digital download only, entitled “One Day Like This.” It is one of the strongest tracks of the eleven and is a good introductory sampling to Elbow.

“One Day Like This” is beautifully sung and the lyrical content is both thoughtful and profound. It is practically the theme song to a warm day at the park-lying in the grass, smiling at the sky. It truly evokes that kind of response if you let it.

Other tracks that really stand out include “Mirrorball,” “Grounds for Divorce,” and “Friend of Ours.” All three tracks bring something a little different to Elbow’s sound.

The near six-minute “Mirrorball” is the ultimate lounge and party song-perfect for some ambience. “Friend of Ours” is emotionally strung, deep in intent and execution.

But in the end, if anything bad can be said about “The Seldom Seen Kid” it is that beyond those tracks-everything sounds very, very similar. It’s not bad if you like Elbow’s sound. In fact, every song on the album is well written and sounds great. It is only that each song seems to blend together into one long musical experience.

In short, “The Seldom Seen Kid” is an album worth listening to, if not for the variety offered, than certainly for the overall quality of Elbow’s mastery of their unique genre.