If you were one of the fortunate few to see Stornoway live last summer then you would have witnessed a quite astonishing acapella performance of a new track, ‘Josephine’. This veritable show-stopper caused many to scramble through the archives of YouTube frantically looking for their additional fix of this wonderful sea-shanty, but unfortunately a crisp and clean version was not to be found. The Oxford band’s new album ‘Bonxie’ remedies that situation as we’re treated not only to a definitive version of the aforementioned track but also a heady mix of well-crafted indie-folk that unashamedly dips its toe into a pop genre, while also offering an abundance of glorious “sing-a-long” chorus’s.
‘Bonxie’, the bands third LP, is named after a large aggressive and intimidating Hebridean seabird that, we are told, is top of its particular food chain. Some may raise their eyebrows in surprise at the association of such a fierce creature with a band that offer no such traits. However, this relationship is more about the bands passion for wildlife and its integration into song and verse than it is with making complicated comparisons against that of this fiery and temperamental creature. The clever mix of bird-song between tracks is soothing and a gentle reminder to all that spring is but weeks away. The production and general feel of the LP offers an overwhelming presence of warmth and an appreciation of impending sunlight. Through cleverly crafted lyrics and melodies you subconsciously become aware of scurrying insects beneath ones feet and the sky once more filling with the return of migrating birds. The gloom of the winter months dissipates with each listen. (Please note that this is still a review for the new Stornoway LP and not for the forthcoming BBC documentary ‘Spring Watch’).
‘Josephine’ certainly stands out on this 11 track release but ‘Get Low’, ‘The Road You Didn’t Take’, ‘Lost Youth’ and the foot tapping ‘Sing With Our Senses’ certainly impress. It’s an album of strong songwriting and it’s only ‘We Were Giants’ that prevents this good album from becoming a great one.
This is without doubt the bands strongest material to date. It offers more variation than 2010’s ‘Beachcomber’s Windowsill’, and is more approachable than 2013’s ‘Tales From Terra Firma’. There is an undeniable feel-good factor to proceedings and thankfully none of the truculent behaviour associated with the albums title character. Whoever thought that the chirping, clutter and language of birds could lead to such an interesting and enjoyable release.
‘Bonxie’ is released on the 13th April 2015, via Cooking Vinyl.
The full track-listing for ‘Bonxie’ is as follows…