If you liked that, you might like these...
Scottish 5-piece The Deep Red Sky are another addition to the growing list of bands who sound, well, Scottish and it just so happens that I like the lilt of the accent that permeates through much of Jamie Craighead’s vocals. The folksy tinge to their music is to the fore and influences listed by the band include Frightened Rabbit and The Twilight Sad, two excellent Scottish bands.
After the first listen, I would add Arcade Fire, Biffy Clyro and Snow Patrol to that list. This is before I read the PR for debut album Plans, which just happens to mention those bands too. It’s at this point that I would like to highlight a few claims in the Press Release alluding to “accessible vocal melodies”, “luscious vocals” and “stunning harmonies”. I mention these now but it’ll be later on before I return to discuss these bold claims further.
At the risk of becoming Echoes and Dust’s Scottish correspondent (I recently reviewed Quickbeam and Delta Mainline), there’s a great wee scene of brilliance emerging. There’s no doubting the (early era) Snow Patrol influence on Plans, the acoustic indie rock and simplistic melodies recalling that band’s Jeepster records. Of course, they were actually based in Scotland at that point. So how do The Deep Red Sky compare?
Opener ‘Zombies (Things Don’t Stay The Same)’ sets us off well with that Scottish sound clearly to the fore. Acoustic indie with a hint of folk, accent resounding and a fine melody. ‘Getting Easier’ is a meatier Arcade Fire style stomp, snappy and melodic again. ‘Look on Your Face’ hits the spot with a gorgeous melancholic melody, heartfelt and yearning, a great start to the album. The production line of Highland excellence looks set to keep going at full tilt. ‘Steal From You’ wears the Biffy influence proudly on the front of its skinny t-shirt; a simple melody but retaining the high quality level.
Around each of these fine songs, there’s been a hint of female vocal in and around the mix. Not intrusive, a little hit of higher register accompaniment to Craig’s well toned vocals. But from title track ‘Plans’ onwards, either Jesse Stoddard managed to get to the mixing desk and nudge herself up a bit in the mix, or else the band decided collectively to put the songs they have on the second half of the album. Something goes badly wrong from here on in. Those non-intrusive female backing vocals become more noticeable. And more off-key with Craig’s.
‘Plans’ is a lovely song, marred by Jesse’s almost nervous sounding attempt to harmonise. ‘So Tired’ aims for kookiness but ends up irritating. ‘You Had It All’, ‘Paralysed’, ‘Burn’ all aim for a rockier sound (are they trying to cover the vocals up?), but by now I’m just listening out for the off vocals to appear. Closing track ‘Sirens’ shapes up with a flurry of furious drums and kicking guitars but the inevitable comedown happens and we’re back in the comfortable surrounds of acoustic twinkling folk, the melody just sounds tired and a retread of what has went before. By now, the harmony vocals are woefully out of time.
Listen, this is how this record sounds to my ears, I’m not a vocal coach and am willing to be challenged regarding my comments. But to these ears, there’s a mismatch between the two singers in this band. I suspect that Jesse can sing just fine on her own. Craig is a great singer, but to so boldly claim in your PR about the vocal harmonising when it’s this bad is bewildering. It truly spoils and puts me off what should be a fine debut. Apologies…