The frigid North Atlantic seems to be ripe with great folk rock bands, like Iceland's Of Monsters and Men and the harvest of tremendous sounds that have been emanating from the Scandanavias. Another Northern European nation with a rich history in folk is Scotland, and its latest treat, six-piece Admiral Fallow
, visited us in Brooklyn to take the stage at The Launch Pad. Traditional in many senses, the band charges up their melodies with flute and clarinet, which overlay poetically mournful lyrics. Following the 2012 release of the group's sophomore LP, Tree Bursts In Snow
, we were priveleged to catch live performances of their freshest folk ballads like the richly harmonized "Beetle In The Box" and the angry roll of "The Paper Trench." We invite you to set sail to the mighty north, where overcast skies and cold temperatures produce musicians in their sincerest forms.
Admiral Fallow are quite probably a new-to-you band albeit one landing in your in-tray or inbox today with a debut album already under their collective belt, 2010's superbly acclaimed Boots Met My Face. As such an achievement should suggest, this Glasgow-based ensemble has paid its dues several times over, sleeping on floors on tour and making the most of meager resources to further a cause that's earned them comparisons to the likes of The Delgados and Midlake, and attracted plaudits from such high-profile individuals as Elbow's Guy Garvey, King Creosote and Guillemots' Fyfe Dangerfield.
Now, with the release of Tree Bursts In Snow produced and mixed at Glasgow's famous Chem 19 studios by Paul Savage (Franz Ferdinand, Mogwai, Teenage Fanclub), and mastered by Greg Calbi (Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, The National) at Sterling Sound in NYC the five-piece (regularly swelled to a larger collective live) is ready to take the next step: from the recommended column of several critics' reviews and into the hearts of the wider public.
This is craft honed, refined and ready to go. Says Louis Abbott, the group's frontman: "I worked out recently that we've been playing together for six years, so we're very glad to be in this position, to give another album to people who've supported us." But it's not exclusively those who've prior experience of Admiral Fallow's music, which veers from rambunctious acoustica to tenderly toned introspection. Newcomers are sure to find hooks aplenty in Tree Bursts In Snow's ten tracks. Indeed, it's a collection geared for maximum first-impression impact.
"I think of an album in the same way I do a live show," says Abbott, whose solo endeavors developed into Admiral Fallow in 2007; "It needs to have a strong balance between catchy numbers and the slow-burners."
And so Tree Bursts In Snow matches its upbeat offerings with quieter arrangements, presenting a mix of immediate delights and songs that might take a few listens to take hold of the soul. (But worry not, as they will.) Lyrically, this is a collection focusing on themes both universal and deeply personal: certain fears manifest themselves in songs such as "Tree Bursts" and "The Paper Trench," but love for life itself is articulated on "Isn't This World Enough??" Says Abbott: "I think the times we live in can get you down, and the way to deal with this is to do what you love and right now, we love making music together and playing it to people."
It might seem natural to place Admiral Fallow beside certain purveyors of what's become bracketed as nu-folk, but the outfit is as much a new chapter in the continuing history of remarkable independent voices from north of the border as it is aligning itself with topical trends. "Members of the band have experience in traditional, electronic, orchestral and Indie music," says Abbott, "and I didn't have an electric guitar when we began playing together." The end product is of an entirely organic design, and certainly not to be confused with coattail-riding revisionists.
Filtering imagery of war through perspectives that prefer the positive over wallowing in pity, Admiral Fallow have, with Tree Bursts In Snow, realized their most compelling statement of intent to date. A bright, breezy listen on "Guest of the Government" (squint and it could be The National with a burr), affectingly intimate on "Brother" (perhaps the most personal lyric herein), it's a set that conveys a raft of emotions with accomplished poise with the sort of experience that can only come from hard graft.