"The world is our dancefloor now - remind me how to dance again"

Years active: Genres: Related artists:
2004 - 2015(?) Art Pop, Chamber Pop, Indie Pop n/a

Line-up: Fyfe Dangerfield (vocals, keyboards, guitar), Aristazabal Hawkes (bass - both double and electric varities - and backing vocals), Ricardo "MC Lord Magrão" Pimentel (guitar, general noise), Greig Stewart (drums, percussion, programming). All instruments listed are indicative/"default" only, in reality each member was a multi-instrumentalist and played whatever any given song would require.

The first decade of the 2000s was a golden period for UK music scenes, and everyone has their own favourite artist from the countless names that appeared and often disappeared during that period. Guillemots are mine. Their wildly orchestrated and orchestral widescreen sound was so emblematic of the sky's-the-limit approach of that period, and though the exact time they entered my radar has faded out of my memory, it was love at first listen. Guillemots' music managed to capture a really vivid essence of beauty without limits, and underneath the surface was a far more experimental and multifaceted band than you could first tell. That would, in a way, be their relative downfall too but more on that later.

It's going to come up in the reviews below too but whilst there was a clear chemistry between all four members, Guillemots far more resemble of a collective of individuals who have grouped together for a common goal rather than a band as such. All its four members hail from different backgrounds, both musical and regional: Dangerfield is an Englishman formerly involved in indie pop acts, the Canadian Hawkes is classically trained, Brazilian-British Magrao has a background in experimental noise acts and the Scotsman Stewart is a jazz drummer. A lot of Guillemots' magic lies in how these disparate worlds come together, where all of those influences are clearly audible but they all meet harmoniously to merge into something completely new, typically guided by Dangerfield's songwriting and his pure passion, throwing his everything into the vocals and the emotional impact of these songs like the music genuinely possesses him. It's a very unique mix of ideas and the band never shied away from experimenting with leaning towards one thing or another: in the early days their b-sides and other non-album cuts would show a vastly different band to more elaborately composed version that the longplays depicted. A lot of bands are melting pots of wide arrays of influences but with Guillemots that multi-dimensional composition is part of their very DNA and and as the band went on further they'd begin to weave those sounds more integrally to their core songwriting. There's worlds of difference between the deft orchestral hand of their debut Through the Windowpane which largely stemmed from material Dangerfield had written, and the more dynamic group of musicians writing everything together in Walk the River and Hello Land!, which display an approximation of what you could perhaps consider the Guillemots sound, even if it's still a little too varied to pin down comfortably.

The "famous" tragedy of Guillemots that they are primarily known for one album, the aforementioned Through the Windowpane. The debut album was the reason why for a brief moment in time Guillemots felt like the most exciting force in the world for so many. And, fair, Through the Windowpane is one of the greatest albums ever made (and even those with less subjective views would struggle to deny its quality), but in the end it perhaps was a little bit of a red herring. The early EPs and singles had introduced a vividly creative act that was bouncing all over the place, but the debut intentionally neatened things up a little and the band indulged in the options that a decently budgeted debut album could give - so they leaned towards their orchestral side, their more elaborately soaring arrangements and the imaginatively soaring pop that represented them at their most splendorous. But, in the end, it didn't capture what the band as a whole stood for and the idea behind the second album Red was to put together a potpourri of their wildest ideas to represent how wide the band could reach. It wasn't Through the Windowpane though, and the band's audience dropped by tenfold immediately. The complete 180 in people's reactions and expectations left Guillemots spiralling and by the time they brought themselves together, it was too late and most people had moved on. It's sad in many ways, but the biggest tragedy out of all them is perhaps the fact that those later albums are so buried that so few people have even heard them; yet given how the band transformed, I'd be absolutely certain that those albums could easily have caused similar waves of excitement as the debut did if they had ever been given a chance. Guillemots' discography isn't very big and yet it still feels like they've got one of the most overlooked back catalogues of all time.

And yes, the fact that the discography is so small is another sad affair. Guillemots never officially broke up but sometime during the follow-up sessions after Hello Land! the band simply halted everything, despite their grand plans to follow their fourth album with a whole cavalcade of records. The complete silence that followed lasted for years and every little trickling of announcements - first Magrao announced his departure from the band, then Stewart - just made it more certain what everyone suspected already. In interviews Dangerfield has said that the fifth album ended up having such a scope creep that it eventually paralysed the entire project and then the band simply never managed to get it moving again, and though he's also said everyone is still friends with one another and you shouldn't rule out future Guillemots work, I think we all know in our hearts that "the hiatus" is never going to end. And that not only leaves us with a really awkward open ending, but also a small discography that ultimately ends in a promise of a future that never came.

But don't let that dishearten you, if you are by any chance new to the band. Guillemots' four albums are some of my favourites in my entire music collection, full of imagination, beauty, resonance and of course some larger-than-life all-time-great pop songs. Despite the range of their artistic talent, Guillemots were always first and foremost a pop band and their theatrical ballads, snappily energetic lightning bolt rushes and epic-proportioned centrepieces (which they loved including in every single release) all share an immense devotion to melody that you can immediate feel cling to your mind and your heart. They are also some of the most vivid and technicolour examples of such songs that you could come across, and the further you dive into those hefty layers of sound the more amazed you might become at the level of detail and craftsmanship in them. Exciting is truly the right word to describe Guillemots as a whole - the creative joy so abundant in their work is infectious and their music can really carry you on its wings, bringing a warm light in your heart. Binging through their works ahead for this site made it clear, if it wasn't already - they're truly one of my close personal favourite acts.

Main chronology:

Other releases:

CD singles:

Side projects:

Fyfe Dangerfield:


Release year: Rating: Key tracks:
2006 9 "Trains to Brazil", "Over the Stairs", "Go Away"

1) Sake; 2) Trains to Brazil; 3) Made Up Lovesong #43; 4) Over the Stairs; 5) Who Left the Lights Off, Baby?; 6) Cats Eyes; 7) Go Away; 8) My Chosen One

Collection of early non-album cuts and even they're more promising than most debut albums

From the Cliffs collects together Guillemots' debut EP I Saw Such Things in My Sleep EP and the original Trains to Brazil single (including the b-sides) released on Fantastic Plastic before Polydor snagged them up, rejigs the tracklist a little to make the combined works come together more neatly and technically adds one new song on top of it all - though it'd be a stretch to call the admittedly pretty 40-second intro "Sake" really a song as such. What's really apparent here compared to so many other debut EPs is that Guillemots hatched into this world fully formed, with no compromise or early-days shakiness. Their sound is already impeccably lush and layered, there's intricate horn and string sections and all kinds of rich production details that downright frolic through the speakers, and the level of imagination and inspiration is miles apart from the usual promising-but-unpolished standards of initial releases. When these releases first came out it instantly set the UK music world in a buzz and for a good reason - and those same reasons now make this a borderline essential part of their back catalogue, effectively forming another pint-sized album in its own right that stands strongly next to the other actual albums. The only indication that the band were still figuring things out slightly here is the abundance of longer songs, clearly formed out of jamming together and everyone contributing ideas without a filter, the fresh band stretching their wings and seeing how far they can go - and that's one of this release's strengths.

But first, you've got the two biggies. "Trains to Brazil" and "Made Up Lovesong #43" would eventually make it to Through the Windowpane as well and they have been placed right to the front in this collection, pitch-perfectly defining Guillemots in a handy two-song punch right off the bat. I'm going to go into more detail on both songs on my reviews for the singles and Through the Windowpane but suffice to say they're the kind of legacy-establishing classic debut singles that only ever appear once every blue moon; songs that in the space of 3-4 minutes contain such a plethora of ideas, personality and above all immensely rich melodies that they stick with you from the first listen and only grow stronger. If the minor spelling difference in the title didn't catch your eye or give a little hint, the version of "Made Up Lovesong #43" here is an earlier take and a little less pastoral and bombastic than the eventual album recording, with some of the backing vocals and additional kitchen sink flourishes missing from its back half, but they're largely superficial differences and what makes the song so special is already all in place. "Trains to Brazil" meanwhile was relocated as-is to Through the Windowpane and, well, how could you actually improve on it? It's a song that somehow makes instinctual anger sound hopeful and beautiful, building it into an anthem that's both a life-affirming embrace and a defiant call-to-arms at the same time. They are the best two songs on this disc by a mile - songs so good everyone in the team knew they couldn't afford to leave them out of the actual debut album on a different label - but it's not like the others don't come close.

If you are, in fact, coming to this off the back of the later albums, then "Trains to Brazil" and "Made Up Lovesong #43" likely aren't going to be the star attraction in any case, it's the other five songs that didn't appear again. Where the first two songs are in spirit and form effectively perfect pop songs, the rest run off wildly in completely different directions in a creatively untamed manner. "Over the Stairs", "Cats Eyes" and "Go Away" all stretch across seven-to-nine minutes in length and paint entirely different soundscapes with their extended scopes. "Over the Stairs" is a stargazing post-rock lullaby whisking the listener into a fairytale summer's night with its gentle organ and "Cats Eyes" skips and frolics through multiple moods in a suite-like fashion with vocal harmonies, playful breakdowns and eyes full of wonder, both using their long lengths to extend their particular palettes into vivid dimensions; meanwhile "Go Away" suddenly jolts up with muscle and force that the previous tracks hadn't hinted at even once, exploding into fits of ecstatic cacophony over its thick jazz-funk groove. "Who Left the Lights Off, Baby?" is another pop song but both more bubblegum and bonkers than the previous ones, coming across like a giddy play session for a band in a room full of instruments, strutting away with joy in their hearts - it's really lightweight but in a wholly positive fashion, and beyond all the whimsy it also rocks another soaring chorus that ties all its various, constantly morphing components together like a neat bow on a present. And after all the colour, confetti and fireworks that all the previous songs have unleashed in troves, "My Chosen One" is the perfect - and perhaps necessary - moment of calm to close the collection with, featuring just Fyfe, a piano and a gorgeously sparse arrangement. It's not as flashy as the rest, but it's effortlessly beautiful and shows Guillemots (and Dangerfield's songwriting) works just as well when stripped to the bare minimum than when the arrangements are left to grow wild.

It's a heck of a set. Like said, with a 40-minute-odd length this almost feels like a full album in itself and the only thing which really breaks that illusion is that its two most shining stars were given an even better home afterwards, and so here they come across paradoxically like repeats. But aside from that minor superficial quirk, the music in From the Cliffs genuinely strikes a little magical in its presentation and vision. I first heard Guillemots with Through the Windowpane so by the time I got this I was already familiar with their sound, but this still felt unique in its own right and retains its sense of wonder even now. As far as introductions go, you could hardly ask for a better way to open the door.

Physically: A digipak with no booklet, just credits on the flipside of the cover sleeve.


Release year: Rating: Key tracks:
2006 10 "Made-Up Lovesong #43", "We're Here", "São Paulo"

1) Little Bear; 2) Made-Up Lovesong #43; 3) Trains to Brazil; 4) Redwings; 5) Come Away with Me; 6) Through the Windowpane; 7) If the World Ends; 8) We're Here; 9) Blue Would Still Be Blue; 10) Annie, Let's Not Wait; 11) And If All...; 12) São Paulo

Life-affirmingly beautiful, majestically grand - pop songs full of wonder and magic. It's a special album, this.

Perfect score albums come with their fair share of hyperbole by default but try as I might otherwise, I've come to the realisation that the only way I can summarise why I think Through the Windowpane matter so much is by going even more unfathomably corny and cheesy than I usually end up. So, I'm biting the bullet and I'm just going to bluntly get it out of the way: Through the Windowpane is probably the most beautiful album back-to-back that I have ever heard in my life.

"Life-affirming" as a descriptor is a shorthand saying forthe feeling of overwhelming emotion which comes from the realisation and subsequent appreciation of just how magical everything in the world around you can be, typically triggered by something so moving that you end up seeing the world in a different light right afterwards. It's a notion typically associated with elevated joy, but really it's closer to a kind of contentedness with the world which can amplify a simple sunshine to feel like a little miracle, where every sound around you becomes a rich tapestry to wholeheartedly appreciate: a feeling where you click with the fact that even if things aren't perfect, just being alive and experiencing life in all its detail is something to cherish, even when it carries a brief note of bittersweetness to it. Like all superlative statements, more often than not when the phrase appears in reviews et cetera it's used as just another synonym for a particularly strong sense of positivity or happiness, a flowery piece of purple prose to make you come across fancier. I'm not innocent in that respect either but I do try to limit my uses of the word to those special cases where it really does feel like the one appropriate term to use - and my benchmark for whether something reaches that thresholdis Through the Windowpane. Through the Windowpane is the purest distillation of the sense of sheer, unbelievable love for life in its many-splendoured nature in the most genuine, deeply human capacity that I've come across; something that radiates with a deep, booming wonder for the magic around you and the connection you can have with everything and everyone sharing the same space. It never stumbles or crosses the line to become a cheesy motivational booster, nor does it ever underline and highlight the point: the album simply glows with naturally even through the songs which are distinctly sadder (or even angrier), like a beam of light cracking through the clouds that have temporarily obscured the way. And above all it's just so beautiful in all its awe-striking richness, through its use of melody, its arrangements, the performance, everything. It's like the idealised notion of that powerfully moving notion; or to put it simply, you know, it's all life-affirming. "The world is our dancefloor now / Remind me how to dance again", as "We're Here" puts it.

Taking this back to the context of Guillemots themselves, compared to the EPs and singles released before Through the Windowpane the version of Guillemots presented here has slightly streamlined themselves. The sprawling experimental wildness caused by four very different musicians pushing their ideas together, present all over the early singles, was considered maybe a little too much for the grand official debut album and as a result Through the Windowpane is about 95% directly from Dangerfield's songwriting pen; he who also wrote many of the most immediately resonant, approachably melodic songs of those releases. The rest of the band aren't invisible, they've all got their characteristic playing styles and aesthetics which factor into every step, but those unique choices never overstep the central vision - that vision being abundantly melodic, oft-soaring and thoroughly emotional anthems and tearjerkers. With the backing of a bigger label behind them, the band have also gone all-in on the accompaniments to the music which were previously only hinted at: besides the general "play what you want" multi-instrumentalist attitude (including typewriters and other slightly more DIY choices) the album is awash with string and horn sections, grandly making their gestures over the majority of the songs on the album and swelling underneath every time a song jumps to a higher plateau or gently floats down from one. None of it feels like an addendum, a layer tacked on just to make things sound more impressive: the orchestral touches are deeply integrated into the songs as yet another integral building block holding them together and guiding them onwards, with the string arrangements in particular flickering into life and sometimes almost having a mind of their own rather than just acting as a prettier textural element used in lieu of a typical keyboard preset. The production is appropriately warm, lush and textured as well, breathing life into the detailed and multi-faceted arrangements. Through the Windowpane is far more collected and composed compared to the band's earlier releases, but it keeps that adventurous spirit by throwing everything it can into these towering songs and by doing so, letting the songs stretch their wings into the boldest versions of themselves that they could be.

The widescreen approach is essential for the emotions that Through the Windowpane runs to embrace, understanding that a sense of grandeur is necessary to convey the beauty in the whole world itself. If the last two paragraphs haven't made it obvious yet, there is a sense of bombast to every single part of Through the Windowpane (well, maybe not the brief interlude bridge "And If All...") but it's not all just about pressing the throttle pedal down and going naught to hundred in a flash. You've got the huge set pieces of course: above all "We're Here" which may as well be the dictionary definition of the elusive "life-affirming" aspect and which stands out as the album's central mission statement both musically and thematically, with its rising strings and empoweringly soaring chorus runs encapsulating the impossible beauty of every opportunity you have - its music video is just brief shots of the natural world (sometimes synced to the music) and low-effort and obvious as it may be, it works wonderfully and further keys in on the song's atmosphere. The closer "São Paulo" takes the whole "big and bombastic" thing very literally by stretching across twelve minutes, using the time to patiently pave the way towards its grand fireworks finale where it climbs higher and higher until it explodes in efflorescent, ecstatic passion and irreverently maniac abandon, every single aspect of the album's musical and emotional landscapes colliding to form its most wild-spirited moment of passion and inspiration. It's a powered-up version of the long jam-like tracks that were scattered across the earlier releases, taking what made those early songs so captivating and merging into the new scope of Through the Windowpane, and it's stunning.

But the album isn't so one-dimensional as to just go on that singular gear for the whole of its length, and its vastly embracing sound is conveyed through other means as well: "Redwings" is a gentle hug of a ballad that softly grows in its vocal harmonies and orchestral elements until it becomes positively cinematic without ever really going full-on epic, and the opener "Little Bear" features Fyfe with his piano with the orchestra as the accompaniment, which on this album counts as stripped-down. But, through the sparseness between the melodies "Little Bear" and the space given between the piano and the strings it manages to convey a wide-eyed sense of scale like the sky full of stars unfolding right before your very eyes and in doing so sets the tone of the album right from the start, and if there's a direct example I could point to about this album managing to reach a very special kind of beauty, this is the song I'd go for: the opening run of strings swelling for the last time right before Fyfe quietly introduces himself is the first hair-raisingly gorgeous moment of many and the album's barely even began. Or you can just throw yourself into the splendour at full charge and use the powered-up sound to make something that was already going to be irresistable even more so, or in other words watch how the effortless summertime anthem "Annie, Let's Not Wait" finds ways to get even bolder and brighter as it runs forward, culminating in a choir sing-along that might just be the most impossibly giddy way one has been implemented in a pop song. Or how the escalatingly cacophonic wilderness of "Come Away with Me" seamlessly segues into the title track that skips forward with so much light in its heart that Dangerfield is no longer able to convey it through words, resorting to ecstatic shrieks and yelps in the second verse.

Besides those, even though the number one feeling I associate with it is ultimately joy in its purest form, Through the Windowpane isn't an inherently upbeat album, but even when it reaches towards the darker shades it pulls back something almost comforting out of the shadows. Take "If the World Ends" and "Blue Would Still Be Blue", both of which are love songs but they're ones that don't picture a life full of roses ; the title of the gently swiveling former is quite literal and it finds solace in sharing your final moments with someone by your side and fighting against the sorrow through that connection, and the latter skeletally shrinks the arrangement to just Fyfe and the faintest keyboard loop while he quietly layous how everything difficult isn't going to automatically get better and your flaws don't disappear just because you're in love, but things would still be easier with company. They're both melancholy in their own unique ways - they're the album's big tearjerker duo - but they both dig deep into their souls and arrangements to find something wonderful within. Ultimately, as the last notes play out the feeling you're left with isn't sadness but a sense of, well, love, coming through in a realistic and appreciative fashion which hits harder because of how the light and dark are balanced. "Trains to Brazil" is one of the album's brightest and loudest songs, a colourful romp of a song with a big chorus and a driving beat that serves as the album's primary rush of energy: but it's also an incredibly angry song, lashing out in ad hoc frustration in the way that grief can make us act, as it deals with the emotional aftermath of the 2005 London bombings. It's almost insensitive if you isolate its call-outs from the wider context ("and for those of you who mourn your lives through one day to the next / well let them take you next! / can't you just live and be thankful you're here? / see it could be you tomorrow, next year") and it almost manages to weaponise the fragility of life, but ultimately it comes out both unrelenting in the face of adversity while also sincere in its mourning for the innocent lives lost through senseless acts, all performed in the guise of what is in the end a rousing, pounding and practically triumphant anthem. It's complicated, fascinating and above all phenomenal from both a songwriting perspective (it's one of the deserved classics of the 00s Brit canon) and how it still somehow manages to come out batting for the beauty of life despite the trauma.

But the best is saved for when the album flips all that and wholeheartedly embraces the happiness in its heart, and that's "Made-Up Lovesong #43": already a part of one of the early releases but brought back here with a slightly brushed up coat of paint over it - because, quite frankly, it would have been mad for a band to hold off a song like this from the album, especially because it's the early blueprint for what so much of this album aims for and practically serves as its calling card. It's also the song that drew me to Guillemots in the first place because while it only spans three and a half minutes - of which a minute is entirely devoted to the slow outro so really it's just two and a half minutes of action - it manages to include a short EP's worth of twists, turns and musical ideas into it, while still effectively just being a straightforward pop song about love. And its idea of love doesn't come with a bittersweet tint or a melancholy edge, but it beams with the blissed-out happiness of finding someone and then having those feelings reciprocated - the grayscale first half and its "I love you, I don't think you care" transforms into a kaleidoscopic rush of melody and confetti as the song frolics out through the door and into the streets to shout its new-found fortune out loud, that final chorus line turning into an euphoric "I can't believe you care!" before Fyfe gets drowned out by the makeshift choir (and this whole one-two flick bridging "Little Bear" to the rest of the album is done so well it deserves a shout for that alone). For all its different hats that Through the Windowpane throws into its melting pot, "Made-Up Lovesong #43" is just happy that it's here to experience it all and it's practically overwhelmed with that emotion. It's one of the simplest songs on the record but to this day, I can't think of a song that could better condense the resonant rush of emotion that comes with Through the Windowpane than this simple pop song. It can arrest you to your place when it first gently steps into the room, and shortly downright beckons you to join its exuberant dance and to jump like an idiot around the room; I know that from experience.

Which is where we'll go back to that whole "life-affirming", "the most beautiful sound I've witnessed", superlative spin from the beginning. Through the Windowpane is so overflowing with these sensations that it hits me somewhere deep in a way few albums do. Emotion plays a lot into why I love music - I don't do "objective" - and that's especially true with those albums I consider my all-time favourites; for the majority of them, I can still easily logic away where those feelings and connections stem from, rationalising why this and that particular album is so meaningful to me. Through the Windowpane is perhaps a little unique in the sense that there's no set time or place that I'd closely associate with it, no great story behind my relationship with its music like a diary entry disguised as a review - I can't even clearly remember how exactly I discovered Guillemots. But Through the Windowpane finds its way right in my heart, swelling me with feelings and emotions as it plays with consistency and strength that few albums match, and it's done so since day one. It's a feeling album for me, and I said I'm not afraid to be cheesy this time, and one which frequently leaves both a mental and physical impact on me when it plays as it's impossible not to connect with it so strongly that it makes me literally jump out in glee or it brings a drop in these cynical eyes that barely ever weep to music. Guillemots hit upon an almost primal source of joy, love, wistfulness and above all else wonder with their debut: all the planets aligned, these four musicians tapped into something breathtaking when simply recording their debut album. It set their career off to an impossible start and arguably doomed them in some ways, but... it's such a phenomenal record that life would be worse without it.

Physically: A jewel case with a thick booklet, featuring all the lyrics, various photos and extensive liner notes with all kinds of fun, detailed descriptions. It's also the only CD booklet I have ever seen with a "notes" section at the end for the listener to write their thoughts in. I wonder if anyone has.


Release year: Rating: Key tracks:
2008 8 "Kriss Kross", "Clarion", "Don't Look Down"

1) Kriss Kross; 2) Big Dog; 3) Falling Out of Reach; 4) Get Over It; 5) Clarion; 6) Last Kiss; 7) Cockateels; 8) Words; 9) Standing on the Last Star; 10) Don't Look Down; 11) Take Me Home

An exuberantt pick-n-mix of assorted sounds and moods. Not Windowpane 2 by a long shot, but it's delightfully wild.

Ideally I’d like to tackle every album on its own merits, but in order to talk about Red you first need to at least briefly refer back to Through the Windowpane, because the former is so tied to the latter’s legacy. Through the Windowpane is a very immaculately and in-all-honesty perfectly crafted album, a stunning masterpiece of composition where each song inhibits a special place in the greater whole - and I'm not the only one who think so, because it has built up a bit of a reputation as one of the best albums of the UK 00s scene. But to remind you, it was also an album that was largely created under the vision and craftsmanship of Dangerfield. The other members definitely had their imprint on it, but it was clear who was in charge based on the writing credits alone, where only three songs are attributed to the band as a whole and two of those were the interludes. Red is a complete 180 degree flip – only two songs have come solely from Dangerfield’s pen, with the rest having been credited to the whole quartet. This is where the key difference between the two albums comes to play. Instead of repeating the magic of the debut, Guillemots decided to take full advantage of the group’s rather unique cast of members - an international collective with backgrounds in classical training, noise music, indie rock, jazz and hip-hop, all collaborating together to create their combined idea of pop music. Red, then, was devised as a debut album of sorts for Guillemots as a unit. It’s an album created as a team, every member participating equally in the brainstorming and encouraging everyone to bring forth their unique points of view. Comparing Red to its predecessor comes naturally because it intentionally takes such a great distance to what came before, and in that respect it's also gained a reputation of its own as the difficult follow-up album. But, if you had heard the pre-Windowpane releases or even the b-sides to the singles from that album, this shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. Whatever Red does had already been foreshadowed a long before.

In a nutshell, Red is all about throwing different things all over the place and giving every colour in the palette a go. Where Through the Windowpane placed great emphasis on grandiose beauty and sweeping melodies, Red just does whatever it feels like at any given moment. The humongous, life-affirming anthems are still present but this time they’ve been bundled together with everything from RnB-influenced pop eccentricities to loud and distorted walls of noise, with Dangerfield intentionally stepping back to clear more room for the other members’ voices (including literally, with Magrao and Hawkes taking lead vocals in the crunchy, hard-hitting "Last Kiss"). There’s no cohesion, not even an attempt at it, and that’s precisely the intention. In its place are wild whimsicality and a dash of mad creativity - “Cockateels” has the feel of a movie soundtrack cue turned into a stage musical number with Bollywood choirs thrown in for good measure, “Clarion” sounds like a pop single played by a cartoon disco group and “Big Dog” spices its falsetto-lead robo funk stabs with sampled bat sounds and key jingle percussion among other ad hoc instrument choices, to name a few examples. Red is a madhouse where earnest pop songs filled with tearjerkingly lovely melodies co-exist with all kinds of sonic experiments explored with a throw-it-in attitude, and they all hold hands together.

If you draw an issue with this, Red is going to be a rough ride. The band appear to be on an intentional mission to destroy the hopes and expectations generated by Through the Windowpane, deciding that rather than to try to follow up what many already called a modern classic when it came out, it was a far better choice of action to instead go for something completely different. Remnants of the debut flash occasionally but they’re few and far between and you may as well be looking at a release from a different band for all it’s worth - but what a band this new quartet is! Red may re-invent itself with each song but most of those songs are actually really, really good and the band behind them beams with inspired energy. While the sounds they use may be for most parts brand new, Guillemots still know a thing or two (or several) about amazing melodies and how to craft massive songs. Red largely bounces from highlight to highlight and if anything, the way each song plays out completely differently to everything else just emphasises the special nature of each. The tracklist is a checklist of exciting highlights, from the beautiful (the bittersweetly pretty “Standing on the Last Star”, the distant farewell of “Take Me Home”) to the anthemic (“Kriss Kross” and its matador horns and industrial crunch coming together, the aforementioned “Cockateels”), from rocking and roaring (“Don’t Look Down” with a final breakdown that leaves you gasping with those drums fill, “Last Kiss”) to just plain old fun (“Big Dog”, “Clarion”). It's a constantly transforming thrill ride, each song trying to outdo the previous one and it's such an exciting listen. In fact, only two songs show the shortcomings that could have affected Red in a larger way in less capable hands, with one of those unfortunately being the lead single "Get Over It". And it's not even the song itself where "Get Over It" stumbles, it's the shiny radio slickness all over it that doesn’t really suit its would-be raucous nature. If you ever get a chance, try to hear a live version of the song somewhere: the rougher, beefed-up version they unleashed during concerts reveals what they were aiming for with the song, and how the studio version's cleaned-up interpretation fails to achieve it. The other guilty party is the the slow and subtle ballad “Words”, which feels like re-heated Windowpane leftovers and goes to show why not making a close-knit follow-up for it was probably a good bet: in an album full of extraordinary things, it comes across so held back and hushed that it drags the momentum down. The second single "Falling Out of Reach" almost stumbles into the same issue, but the finale it slowly builds up to is so lovely that you forget the slightly more meandering first half.

All of that’s a minor complaint at the end of the day. For all intents and purposes, Red is at the very least an interesting attempt of a band trying to re-establish and re-invent themselves. It does have the sound of a practice round and a transitional album, something that becomes even clearer in hindsight through the albums after it: their sound is heavily influenced by a lot of the elements explored here, but refined into a finer, more thought-out form. But as far as transitional practice rounds go, Red is perhaps surprisingly strong. It’s definitely a mess of an album and it's really, really obviously in a completely different ball park to the debut they made their name with, but that's part of the fun - the band still has that same magically inspired way of creating music and when it clicks, and it often does, the schizophrenic style-flipping becomes a thrill ride of sorts. When the startlingly different opener “Kriss Kross” changes its tone from a moody, aggressive bull-fight pounder to a far more bittersweet guise filled with vulnerably longing beauty in its final set of climaxes (plural, indeed), and then suddenly shifts gears again immediately afterwards, it’s clear that while the sounds may have changed, the same great creative minds are still behind it all. Red isn't its predecessor, but doesn't deserve to live in its shadow either.

Physically: It's 2008 so... we get a super jewel case! One of the handful in my collection. The booklet however is far less exciting than any of the liner notes from the previous era, consisting of just photos of the ball on the album cover unraveling across fields and forests. No lyrics, nothing.


Release year: Rating: Key tracks:
2011 9 "Walk the River", "Sometimes I Remember Wrong", "The Basket"

1) Walk the River; 2) Vermillion; 3) I Don't Feel Amazing Now; 4) Ice Room; 5) Tigers; 6) Inside; 7) I Must Be a Lover; 8) Slow Train; 9) Sometimes I Remember Wrong; 10) The Basket; 11) Dancing in the Devil's Shoes; 12) Yesterday Is Dead

A passionate, emotional reinvention through taking the best of everything that came before and combining it into an atmospheric journey of a record.

I'm breaking one of my own rules for reviewing by taking a me against the world stance and actively talking about what Everyone Else thinks, but while I wrote a glowing review for Red the truth is, I'm an outlier. For many more people, Red was such an unsignalled whiplash turn from what they fell in love with on Through the Windowpane that they moved away from Guillemots in an instant and in hindsight, Guillemots never recovered from it. Right now on RateYourMusic Walk the River has a little over 250 ratings compared to Through the Windowpane's over 1,500 - which is an absolutely mental drop in just five short years off the heels of a debut that was so celebrated - and it mirrors the general lack of interest that Walk the River generated at the time. Many people had left the band by the wayside by the time this was out and may have never even heard it, which is a shame in its own right and we'll get to that in a bit, but the real reason I'm bringing it up here is because that's something the band themselves were acutely aware of. Fyfe Dangerfield has always been an introspective person who is far more comfortable expressing his feelings in a song than in a direct interview, and the scattering of interviews and retrospectives I've read from him over the years are sheepishly vague about the difficulties the band faced following Red and that those notions were felt right in the album's wake. In addition, unrelated to the band but in context to where Dangerfield himself (still the band's primary songwriter even if they continued to be as collaborative as possible) was in general, Walk the River follows very closely in the heels of his first solo album Fly Yellow Moon which was written while on the giddy high of a brand new relationship - a relationship that broke apart before that album finally came out, and which undoubtedly left its own imprint on Dangerfield as the band reconvened to write the next Guillemots album.

To make the long story short, the ominously dark front cover isn't there for no reason. The band's perceived misstep had left ripples in its wake and Dangerfield was likely feeling a million and one conflicts about everything, and that all poured into Walk the River. While the first emotions that come to my mind from the first two albums are different types of joy, there was also plenty of introspection, doubt, uncertainty and tragedy hiding within the lyrics, masked by the bright music - the difference Walk the River does is that it brings all of those elements right onto the surface. While still at times outright bursting with colour and energy there's now always a black dog on the band's shoulder watching out for any cautious smile that might appear, and the energy in those vibrant moments typically comes from somewhere between bouncing between the walls in a fit of anxiety and trying to escape those confinements with every desperate measure available. Most of Walk the River though is atmospheric and distant, the music covered in a dreamy veil - aspects conjured largely by David Kosten's ethereal and attention-heavy production - but it's the kind of dream that leaves you quietly agitated when you wake up. Calling the album melancholy or dark is a little bit of an overkill but its lyrics are full of second guessing and doubt, and the anthemic lifts in the music don't fly off in wild abandon like in the previous albums, but tonally are closer to a jump over the ravine in an attempt to catch the edge on the other side in hopes that you'll escape whatever is chasing you.

That less people have heard this album is a real tragedy and that's because they've avoided one of Guillemots' most musically accomplished records - and perhaps, the one time where they've given a direct insight into what the core of the band's future could have sounded like if not for the fact that this is their penultimate album. Walk the River falls somewhere in-between its two predecessors but in a sense that it actively combines what worked so well in both: the less orchestral and concurrently more muscular band dynamic that Red introduced is still the fuel that drives the group's music forward, but they've brought back the more experimental twists of their early EPs and the depth and deftness of arrangements that ran deep through the debut album. Each of the twelve songs is always introducing something brand new into the album's sonic landscape or elaborating on previous ideas in unprecedented ways, and they're played by a band who've never sounded this confident of themselves. Walk the River sounds like a band hell-bent on proving a point about themselves and frequently they've never sounded better and bolder: the title track is a masterclass in growing a song from simple first steps into an emotionally complex and musically deft introduction the album's new tone (and just an incredible song in itself), and the ultravivid "The Basket" runs through with its chiptune guitars and widescreen chorus like the band condensed all the best parts of Red together with absolute certainty. Not to even mention "Sometimes I Remember Wrong" - the nine-minute post-rock-sized moment of otherwordly yearning that the entire first 2/3rds of the album seems to slowly build up to, which is the work of a seasoned group of musicians with absolute chemistry between one another taking on everything they've learned and channelling it into an impossible-to-ignore statement. It's not just the album's centrepiece but one of the cornerstones of their entire discography, unfolding with pathos and awe - it even manages to circumvent the clunkiness of the line "all things will live until they're dead" by sounding so overwhelmingly gorgeous that you fail to take notice. You can hear the roots of all these songs scattered across Guillemots' previous releases but I don't think the earlier incarnations of the band would have been able to actually bring them to life, certainly not in the same way as they've been presented here.

The aforementioned songs are the album's most vital keystones but nearly each song on Walk the River reveals to be just as overwhelming in the very moment that they're unfurling around the listener. Sometimes quite literally such as with the dramatically crashing and storming closer "Yesterday Is Dead" which is a fuzzy guitar layer away from being a shoegaze titan, and sometimes it's more unexpectedly like "Inside" which turns completely inwards and pulls the album fully into an ambient soundscape for its duration, leaning all the way into the haunting atmospheric elements as its minimalistic melodies float inside a vast open space. The band's determination to rejuvenate themselves comes clear in how emotionally charged the album is, where the propulsive "Vermillion" finds it surge from the almost-frustration that cuts through its soaring passages with surprising distortion and crunch, and in a catalogue full of poignant torchlight songs "Standing in the Devil's Shoes" is among the most vulnerable, coming out towards the end of the album to spill everything out right before the board is wiped clean by the "Yesterday Is Dead"'s barrage of noise and where the clash between Dangerfield's fighting sides of hopeless uncertainty and the strength to carry on are palpably tangible - and Dangerfield fearlessly egging on his failures with "come watch me hit the ground / with the most fantastic sound" seems to summarise the album's underdog tones if you buy into that interpretation of its tone. There is usually at least one moment in each track where all the power growing inside them is converted a powerful emotional hit that goes straight for the jugular, and the result can be something suddenly uplifting like a beam of sunlight cracking through the cloud (the final rush of "Tigers", the beautifully bittersweet and unreservedly bright pop gem "I Must Be a Lover" breaking out into its final singalong) or it can send a shiver of resonance down through the body like the final verse and chorus of "Standing in the Devil's Shoes".

And yes, there was a "nearly each" sneaked up there right in the beginning of the previous paragraph. It's a 65-minute album and if we're being blunt and honest, the rollicking "Ice Room" repeats itself maybe a little too much and "Slow Train" and its laidback groove is the only song on the album where the above-average running length feels a little needless. But I'm willing to overlook the fact that they're clearly on a tier just below the rest because they're both still accomplished songs and what's more, they do bridge their corners of the album really well. "Ice Room" jolts the album back to high speed after the achingly gentle "I Don't Feel Amazing Now" (which is effectively a perfected rewrite of the last album's "Falling Out of Reach" in mood and flow, if not in melody) and "Slow Train" is the gentle glide that guides the listener between the polar opposites of refreshingly breezy "I Must Be a Lover" and the monumental "Sometimes I Remember Wrong". They'd be the first ones on the chopping block if I had to make the call but they work in context regardless: they have their place in how the album moves through its segments and they don't take any shine away from the piece of work as a whole. Now you could roll your eyes at all that and think it's just pathetic denial, but really the fact that I still bat to defend them like that says a lot about Walk the River as a whole. More specifically, that these slight stumbles do not actually affect how powerful of an impression the album leaves behind. That's what it all ultimately boils down to: Walk the River is a really powerful listen.

I don't know how much of what I talked about in the first two paragraphs is completely accurate as it's a scattershot collage of anecdotal evidence and memories of interview fragments, but you can absolutely feel the intent powering the album. While it carries plenty of sadness and anxiety within, its driving force is pure determination and the push to carry on, and doing so by creating something new instead of taking the easy step and going back to what everyone liked in the first place. For all its crippling doubt Walk the River is both fierce and bold in its approach, guided by passion and conviction that's evident in these vividly textured giants of songs. Hearing this kind of hunger is usually reserved for young, bullheaded artists on their debuts - but here you have an experienced group conjuring that feeling up while a lingering fear of failure and sense of losing connection looms over their shoulders. In almost every lyric Dangerfield second guesses himself or admits to flaws, but the more the album develops the more it sounds like a cleansing process of facing your demons so you can fight them. You look at the context, the lyrics, sometimes the emotions loudly presented and it's a worn-out album fatigued from constantly running uphill - but it's also ambitious, adventurous and ultimately fearless and gains strength from its adversity. It's beautiful to behold and awe-inspiring to get lost in.

Walk the River sees Guillemots finding their stance again and setting out towards a new chapter with an emotionally charged new sound and some of their very best songwriting. Not many were listening anymore, but that's a genuine loss for them.

Physically: Jewel case with full lyrics and more of the moody photography in style of the album cover.


Release year: Rating: Key tracks:
2012 8 "Up on the Ride", "Southern Winds", "Outside"

1) Spring Bells; 2) Up on the Ride; 3) Fleet; 4) Southern Winds; 5) Outside; 6) Nothing's Going to Bring Me Down; 7) Byebyeland; 8) I Lie Down

An open-ended closure for the band but an entrancing, captivating and yet cohesive journey through various tones and sounds

Back in spring 2012, Guillemots fans received an exciting email from the band's newsletter service. In it, the band not only confirmed that they had finished recording a new album and that it would be out almost imminently, but that it would be the first one in a series of four that they planned to record and release within the next twelve months: each one would be recorded during and conceptually tied to a particular season, with Hello Land! as the first one being appropriately linked with spring. And then, well, the plans didn't really work out as expected and we'll into that in a bit more detail later, but knowing what happens - or rather doesn't happen - next casts a strange shadow over Hello Land!. It was written and recorded to be the first entry in a whole series, but unless some kind of a sudden miracle happens, it ironically became the very last Guillemots album. If you know the context it's difficult to separate it from the record because it's so obviously the start of something new and tantalising, and so you never really stop hearing it as a curious case of a story cut short rather than an individual entry standing wholly on its own two feet in the sense you would if it had been just another album. But it's also important to try and not get too caught up in the what-ifs, because as a piece of work Hello Land! is a fully fleshed-out and wholly realised album - one that's just as much of a culmination of the band's journey so far as it was a teaser of what could be next.

Hello Land! is also, as established, an album dedicated to the spring months of the year. The stereotypical idea we have in our heads about spring is that it's a season of renewal and rebirth, the world coming back to life after winter's dark as the flowers begin to bloom, the birds return back from their migration and the trees begin to wield green again: an optimistic and hopeful start of the new year. If you've actually lived in a country with defined seasons though, you know spring is a complete mess. It's the transition from winter's cold to summer's warmth and so while it absolutely has all the poetic and beautiful qualities of rejunevation as described before, you also have the awkward period where the snow begins to melt and reveals the depressing dead ground underneath before the plants have a chance to pop back up. Some days you can feel the summer approaching but on others you still get the odd snowfall or dark gloomy rain, temperatures going back and forth so much you never know what to wear. Spring has always been my least favourite season because of how much the world is in flux during it - but it's precisely that notion that Hello Land! gets and taps into.It starts off pastoral and blissful, just like you'd imagine a spring album would, but soon diverts towards paths that might have been unexpected: the almost autumnal solemnity of "Southern Winds" and the booming darkness of "Outside" and "I Lie Down" aren't really what comes to mind when you hear the concept. When the dreamy "Nothing's Going to Bring Me Down" and "Byebyeland" float their way through the speakers, the album's moved into ambient territories you can't clearly place into any season, and in a way what could be more appropriate for the chaos of springtime than that? That it's more multi-faceted than it perhaps promises is an unexpected joy.

As a piece of music too, the album is far more substantial than it first might come across as. Despite only eight songs in length (though "Spring Bells" is just a scene-setting intro) it's a good 45 minutes long, and that means its songs have some weight and length to them. The heftier band dynamic and sonic exploration of Walk to River is an obvious precedent to general sound that Guillemots operate under here, especially whenever the album moves into slightly darker territories and the somehow both fragile and colossal "I Lie Down" in particular is greatly reminiscent of the escalating walls of bold and gorgeous noise that Walk the River presented in its headier sections; but just as much there's a lightness and deftness to their arrangements, each song coming with breathing space that wasn't quite as prevalent in the previous album. A good half of the songs take detours into different directions throughout their length that they typically finish somewhere quite different to where they began, and they sound like they're moving organically from one place to another as they do so. The album as a whole replicates the feat by its near-seamless transitions from one section to the rest, moving between its oft-starkly contrasting tones and sounds so smoothly that despite the changes it never once feels incohesive. Hello Land! comes together so beautifully in its sequencing that it's genuinely something to point out, and you absolutely buy into its pseudo-concept album nature because how it's all arranged and ordered certainly gives the impression that there's a greater thought behind it all.

When you've only got such a small pool of songs, each of them matter quite a lot. Hello Land! passes that mark with flying colours: the thrill ride of the spacious and sprawling arrangements comes together wonderfully through just some good old fashioned strong melodycraft, the Guillemots performing here just as strong as ever. "Up on the Ride" is an immediate charmer right from the start with its slow and (this is the last time I use this word) pastoral build-up, until it suddenly jumps up around its halfway mark and becomes a carefree bubblegum pop song full of love in its heart and hits you with such giddiness and warmth that it's impossible not to smile when it's on; it's followed up by the album's sole promo single "Fleet", which continues with that same lush touch and sounds like a classic Guillemots single, its gently breezing chorus soaring with the weight of the world lifted off its shoulders. They're the welcoming team, about as traditional as Guillemots can get sonically and comfortably greeting the listener with familiar overtones before the album starts to stretch its wings. Most of the airtime is reserved for the two show-off songs towards the latter half, of which the aforementioned "Outside" is the album's grand stand-out - it grows, unfurls, bellows and growls sometimes even close to aggressively as Dangerfield and Hawkes shout out with accusatory tones over the galloping drums, until it suddenly takes off in a majestically anthem-like fashion. Over its seven minutes it goes through so many different emotional tones, clinches and releases that it's a real rollercoaster ride which retains an element of the unexpected even when you've become intimately familiar with the song, it always remains fresh. It's only dwarfed in size by the nine-minute "Byebyeland", but its approach is anything but "Outside" - the pseudo-instrumental jam takes half its length just to set the scene in a manner befitting of a fantasy film score, before it softly blossoms into a serene frolic of wordless vocals layered all over one another and bursting melodic patters filling in the gaps. It's the album in a microcosm and maybe it's most contentious moment, but tucked away as the sort-of finale towards the end it completes a kind of musical narrative that the album's various mood swings have invisibly built up towards; "I Lie Down" feels a little tacked on as the actual closer right afterwards, but in all honesty the album did need some kind of a definitive ending note and "I Lie Down" has a handsomely imposing presence that seizes hold. The slowburn acoustic ballad "Southern Winds" and the glimmering dreaminess of "Nothing's Going to Bring Me Down" are the breather moments in-between the big show-off tracks, bringing things back close to the ground - the blissfully lovely "Nothing's Going to Bring Me Down" which simply glides with feather-like weightlessness is the more immediate cut out of the two, but with time the cautiously bittersweet "Southern Winds" has become the more resonant of the two, drawing its power from its simplicity.

Each of the songs, in a nutshell, offer something new while hinting at other parts of the album. They dance around from place to place but always in harmony with everything adjacent, and the whole album feels like a singular art piece rather than a collection of individual parts brought together. It makes Hello Land! maybe the least immediate Guillemots album, and certainly the one where it's the hardest to pick up definitive highlights for an imaginary best of compilation if you were in the mood for one, but none of it is a mark against just what a memorable experience it is. I don't think the whole seasonal angle was too central to the creation process behind Hello Land! but that common thread lingering in the background does help it come together as a final product. It sets the imagination alight: not just in how vividly it conjures mental scenes that play as you sink into the music, but makes the idea of further follow-ups showing the same level of creativity and inspiration but in a different framework so exciting.

But, those promised follow-ups never arrived. The summer album sessions started shortly after the release of Hello Land! and the band's social media account frequently posted candid video postcards from sunny Norway, where they were recording with producer Jonas Raabe who also produced this album. Further videos showcased overdubs in London and then... complete quietness. For years. It's still not entirely clear what exactly happened - Dangerfield has occasionally brought some light onto the matter and by the sounds of it the band kept changing their mind on what the final album should sound like and ended up recording so many loose ends that they felt like working to a tight schedule wasn't worth it anymore, and instead they'd plan the follow-up on a more relaxed schedule. But given the complete silence that surrounded the non-announcement and the brief updates mentioning that various members of the band had left one at a time, there's still plenty of questions around what feels like the band's long, quiet demise (though Dangerfield has also pointed out everyone has remained friends and that despite the length of time, the door's always open for them to come back together if the opportunity comes). It doesn't affect the fact that Hello Land! is a great album and once again a cohesively magical experience but in yet another different way than the ones Guillemots had released before. But Hello Land! does also feel like it's building up to something, like the first season of a Netflix show that proves to be an exciting watch and which does well, but abruptly gets cancelled and leaves you hanging. The exclamation mark at the end of the title would more appropriately be a question mark, maybe even one preceded by an ellipsis, and it's a hang-up that still haunts me to this day. But if this Guillemots' definitive end then, well, they certainly closed their book with a beautiful and impressive manner, even if the "to be continued..." at the last page practically glows with its presence.

Physically: Guillemots moved to a small independent label for this one - State51 Conspiracy - and the packaging is somewhat more humble: a simple digipak with a fold-out poster featuring another photo of the band in their miscallenous outfits straight out of the community theatre wardrobe storage, and "Go get amazed by the day" (a lyric from "Fleet") scrawled over them. When the album was announced I pretty much pre-ordered it on the spot and as a thank you for being such an eager beaver, my copy of the album came with a postcard signed by all members of the band - and also another free copy of the album which I was instructed to give to someone else as a gift. Pics: 1 | 2



Release year: Rating: Key tracks:
2006 8 "The Rising Tide", "Bad Boyfriend"

1) She's Evil; 2) The Rising Tide; 3) Bad Boyfriend; 4) By the Water

A quirky display of what the band sounds as individuals, and delightful in its madness.

Guillemots were always as much of a collective of individuals - a classically trained pianist, a noise experimenter, a jazz drummer and an indie pop troubadour - as they were a tightly-knit band playing music together. The Of the Night EP, originally released on the band's website right as they were about to sign up with a bigger label and begin the work on their debut album, seemingly exists to highlight the different worlds that the members come from. The gimmick is that each of the four songs here has been written and arranged by one specific member, with each person taking their ideas and inspirations to their respective extremes. You can view it in a couple of different ways, one being that this is a good way of directly illustrating what each of the four brings to the Guillemots melting pot. The other is that when you put all of these strands together but keep them separate, you end up with the most bewildering thing the Guillemots have ever released.

If you're just searching for more of the soaring melodies and beautifully lush sweeping notions that are familiar from the adjacent releases, "The Rising Tide" and "By the Water" are fine additions to the catalogue. Dangerfield's "The Rising Tide" builds slowly into a gorgeously emotional torchlight song and understandably is the closest to what you'd find on a Guillemots album given he's the primary songwriter: there's drama, pathos and tenderness, and it's the closest to a straightfaced "standard" Guillemots song present. Aristazabal Hawkes' gently pastoral "By the Water" meanwhile closes the EP with a moment of delicate grace in form of a wistful piano ballad, acting as the harmonious sunset to the EP once it's spent its twenty minutes bouncing around the walls. Both are lovely and resonant songs, and on any other EP they could easily be the highlights - but they're not really the stars of the show here.

Magrao's "She's Evil" and Stewart's "Bad Boyfriend" are insane, particularly in this context. They're sometimes abrasive, certainly divisive and completely off their rockers - but also the key reason why Of the Night is so memorable. "Bad Boyfriend", in particular - it's a nine-minute multi-part suite flicking from a vocoder-covered groove that sounds like a radio single warped and twisted through some nefarious means, to a ludicrously horny 'Four Yorkshiremen' style trade-off between Dangerfield and Hawkes about which one of them enjoys sex more than the other while the electronic beat ramps up - split by an abrupt big lipped alligator moment breakdown (musical as much as mental) where each member abuses their respective instrument. It's deranged and baffling and it might just be one of those most brilliant things Guillemots have done in all its nonsensical bizarreness? It's by no means a conventionally great song but it's full of the band's grand ambitions and fuses it to a palette of colours that make no sense together but produce something unique and wild. "She's Evil" and its discordant steel mill guitars and scream vocals over an industrial beat are almost tame in comparison - it's probably the least of the four songs here (Magrao's musical approach is far more about texture than songwriting and in comparison to the other three songs just doesn't stand out so much in that regard) but still a lot of unexpected fun as it buzzsaws through the speakers and stomps its way to what is an admittedly fun freak-out.

Do these four songs work together? Probably not, but that's not the point. The goal is here to experiment, explore and have fun, with the emphasis on the latter - even the more serious tracks have a sense of jubility and joy of creation around them, and together with the two more off-kilter cuts they form a jolly side adventure. It's a genuinely memorable little EP and in a way quite important in how it shows from early on the extent and width of the band's stylistic pursuits beyond what has become synonymous with them. It's great, and if you want to make it even greater I suggest seeking out Guillemots' 2006 BBC Electric Proms performance (at least currently easily available on Youtube). Armed with a full orchestra behind them, the band pull off a real power move by only playing two songs out of Through the Windowpane and devoting the rest of their set to play through this EP in its entirety, in order, with the strings and horns and everything behind them. If you thought "Bad Boyfriend" couldn't go even further over the top, you'll need to witness it when it's married with a full orchestra with old sections extended and new ones introduced, everyone donning cheap animal masks to add to the absuridty- "take me to orchestral paradise!" indeed.

Physically: A simple digipak with no booklet, with the credits behind the CD tray.



Release date: A-Side: B-Sides:
March 2006 10 7

1) We're Here; 2) Burnt; 3) I've Got a Problem (And the Problem Is You)/Turn the Candles On

"We're Here" was the first single from Guillemots' debut album and while I'm positive the title is about 50% of the reason why that is, the song itself does a great job introducing the album. The word I tend to overuse with Through the Windowpane is "life-affirming"; something so joyous and resonant that it makes you view the world in a slightly different, more positive light once it has finished, something that somehow manages to encapsulate the joy and wonder of the miracle that is the entire planet into some notes and melodies. Yeah I mean that's pretentious as anything but isn't it wonderful how a song, much less an entire album, can do something like that? "We're Here" does it perfectly: it starts out by gently tapping its feet on the ground (with some minor additional piano notes in the intro lacking from the album version), before opening its wings and going into full soar as the song grows and unfolds further and further. The genuinely quite majestic strings, the key changes that push the song further and further into the sky, Fyfe giving his everything into the vocals - it all adds up to a song that fills the air with amazement and beauty. It's a phenomenal start - what a way to announce that Guillemots have arrived.

The b-sides for the Through the Windowpane singles for most parts follow a particular pattern: there's a gentle solo piece by Fyfe (often polished up demos), accompanied by a more experimental cut spearheaded by one of the other members. "Burnt" is the former, featuring just Fyfe softly whispering by his piano until some light bass notes and vocal harmonies appear to accompany him towards the end. Dangerfield is one of those singer/songwriters who doesn't need all the world's kitchen sinks to create something special and "Burnt" is a really lovely, gentle piece that in a particular state of mind can be devastatingly pretty. "I've Got a Problem..." is the freakout jam, stretching its multiple sections across eight and a half minutes in cacophonic glee - the liner notes for the single proudly point out no overdubs were involved, and you can practically hear the band rushing about in the room tinkering around with every instrument, object and sound effect they can find. It's decently entertaining but not really a piece that stands on its own as it is just some wild, untamed creativity caught on tape - as fun as it may be, there's little replay value to it.

Physically: Digipak, with credits on the inner cover.


Release date: A-Side: B-Sides:
June 2006 10 8

1) Made-Up Lovesong #43; 2) Woody Brown River (Demo); 3) The Dormouse and the Meerkat

I can't remember what exactly was my first exposure to Guillemots or how it came about - that much has lost in time - but one of the earliest encounters I had with them that I can vividly remember is seeing the Top of the Pops performance of "Made-Up Lovesong #43": Magrao hiding in his hoodie and only visible to the audience through mirrors, Fyfe's puffy hair jotting out from behind the keyboard, the massive presence of the double bass backing them up and the sheer explosion of colour and life that followed as the song burst into life. It was elaborate and quirky but natural, perfectly befitting of the song that sounded like it froliced out of their heads, and it has stuck in my head since (fortunately it's on Youtube now too so I can go and revisit it regularly). Despite its compact three and a half minute length - of which the slowly deconstructing outro takes a full minute all to itself - "Made-Up Lovesong #43" is a full journey of twists and turns: the music video flicks from grayscale to colour when the song suddenly blooms after its first chorus and as predictable as that might be, it's such a perfect representation of how much richer everything suddenly sounds when the melody takes flight. It's lushly orchestral but truly joyous in such a pure, primal fashion, and the best example of that is how all it takes is one simple lyric tweak in its chorus to take it from a bittersweet song of unrequited love to one of the most perfect depictions in sound of falling head over heels for someone and having that feeling come mutual . It's a marvellous song in all its theatricality, its abundance and its bombast, and yet it's still an earnest pop song about love and never forgets about it. It might just be my favourite Guillemots song and it still sounds as exciting and vibrant as it always has. A perfect song, really.

The b-sides of this reissue single - when the song was released as the second single from Through the Windowpane after previously featuring on their debut EP - follow the usual norm of Guillemots singles. "Woody Brown River" is just Fyfe, a piano and a drop-dead gorgeous melody - out of the stripped-down demos scattered across the singles this is possibly the most loveliest of them all, capable of stopping me on my tracks with how gently powerful its grip is. "The Dormouse and the Meerkat" is the slightly more off-kilter counterweight, waddling along with a vaguely Eastern poise in its acoustic guitar twangs and percussion; the core melody is quite good but out of the two b-sides this one sounds like the demo even if isn't labelled as one, and it begs for someone to push it a little further. Now it lurches along pleasantly, but ultimately a little unmemorably.

Physically: Slim jewel case, with credits in the inlay.


Release date: A-Side: B-Sides:
September 2006 10 7

1) Trains to Brazil; 2) White Rag (Demo); 3) Blue Eyes

For a long time I considered "Trains to Brazil" a happy song, triumphantly rising against adversity - understandably perhaps, because what a riveting and thrilling anthem it is, parading forward with brisk momentum and bright melodies. But it doesn't take more than a quick glance at the lyrics to understand how angry it is. As far as I know Dangerfield has never elaborated on its context beyond its inspiration being the 2005 London bombings and the subsequent shooting of Jean Charles de Menedez by the hands of the British police, mistakenly believing he was part of the terrorist group behind the incident - but you get the sense that there is some personal trauma behind the song, behind its angry almost accusatory snaps and its frustration with the unfairness of losing lives due to foolish acts. It's a song that's venting out anger because of grief - and that sentiment holding hands with that jubilant arrangement is what makes it so strong. It was originally released as Guillemots' debut single before being brought back for Through the Windowpane and it instantly shot as one of the all-time classic first moves, and it's one of the most everlasting songs of the incredibly rich 2000s British scene. And with all the madness in the world that's been playing out since, it continues to feel painfully relevant.

The b-sides on this reissue single, on the other hand, are overall the weakest out of the Through the Windowpane singles. As is tradition with these singles, "White Rag" is a sparse piano ballad and "Blue Eyes" is a more experimental cut, this time headed by Magrao; but both are the weakest of their respective tribes. "White Rag" is expectedly beautiful - you can't go wrong with Fyfe and piano - but as a song it's just not as good as the other two that have come before. The slowly unfolding "Blue Eyes" has a really intriguing atmospheric touch, almost like a tense soundtrack piece keeping the listener on the edge, but it is all about texture and mood and neither of those is so compelling that they'd support the near-seven minute length. It makes for an interesting sonic experiment, but ultimately not one that leaves a trace.

Physically: Digipak, with lots of wonderfully colourful art everywhere, including on the disc. Vibrant and lovely.


Release date: A-Side: B-Sides:
January 2007 9 8 / 8

CD1: 1) Annie, Let's Not Wait (Radio Version); We're Here (Strings Only)
CD2: 1) Annie, Let's Not Wait (Single Version); 2) Photograph (Demo); 3) Take Me Out (Live Lounge)

"Annie, Let's Not Wait", the last single off Through the Windowpane, is a bit of an outlier when compared to the other singles that came before. It breaks the b-side pattern the first three singles had established and that's partly because it was the only single of the campaign which had two CD issues with their unique sets of b-sides each. Furthermore, this isn't the "Annie, Let's Not Wait" that's familiar from the album, lying there towards the end to greet the listener with its carefree breeziness. The single version is a complete remake and by most standards an entirely different song, even if the melodies and lyrics are intact. The new version follows the general flow of the original version but there's now a steady, energetic beat underneath it that pushes it onward with a brisk pace, and the overall arrangement has been given a more conventional pop treatment than the album version's chamber pop-esque arrangements. It's bouncier, even more extroverted and far more energetic - and it does work. The original is an incredible song and so is this, the new song that it effectively is. The new facelift has picked up most of the album version's strengths even if it plays them out differently and it's still a pure surge of unadulterated joy and brightness - but I do miss the choir backing vocals of the original, because they've been pared down and re-recorded here to something closer to the song's live arrangement, but it doesn't have the same impact as the big celebration of the original. But in a way comparing the two has little point because I've got time for both: the album version befits the album better, but I come back to the single version a lot as well.

As is typical for Guillemots singles the first b-side "Photograph" is a Fyfe solo "demo", with his yearning vocals this time backed solely by a plaintive organ - it's an atmospheric, beautiful piece and that's definitely thanks to the organ arrangement, sucker as I am for a great organ. Instead of an experimental piece the second b-side is the band's Live Lounge cover of Franz Ferdinand's "Take Me Out"; not a patch on the original's post-punk urgency, but skillfully translated to Guillemots' world and packs the kind of exciting chaos that these guys can bring out when unleashed - clattering percussion, rollicking horns and most notably the gloriously baffling guitar, stuttering through the verses via the special effects pedals like an electric mouse having a seizure.

The sole b-side of the CD1 issue is the "strings only" version of "We're Here", which is exactly what it says, i.e. it's the lovely string section part of the song, isolated from the rest of the track. That it stands up on its own says a lot about its quality: where most pop song string backings end up being unimaginative keyboard replacements, the arrangement for "We're Here" ebbs and flows - it has a life of its own within the song. It works really well as its own gorgeous instrumental, sweeping majestically through its four minutes, which is quite a feat. There's also a radio version of the single version (!?) which is the same as the full thing, just with a quick fade-out instead of the full outro.

Physically: CD1 is in a slim jewel case, CD2 in a digipak - so combining both approaches from the previous singles. Rather lazily both feature the same photo in the inner liner art, just tinted differently.


Release date: A-Side: B-Sides:
March 2008 7 7

1) Get Over It; 2) Throw Me a Sun; 3) Me Diz

I guess I can see to some degree why this was chosen as the lead single off Red - it's polished, catchy, very trendy souding for 2008 - but it does feel like Polydor made the worst choices it could when it came to the promotional rollout for the album. No one song could really introduce an album as eclectic as Red and "Get Over It" is thoroughly enjoyable, but when you weigh it against the other songs on the album it is one of the weakest of the bunch; you had the pick of the bunch of something stylistically closer to Through the Windowpane or something even more more extremely different if you wanted to highlight the change, and in either case any given song would have been stronger. It also never felt like the band themselves were entirely keen on it either, or at least not in the way they recorded it for the album. Check out some of the live performances of this song from around this period, if you can - even during the TV promo appearances all the super-polished studio sheen was torn apart by a crashing wall of loud, raw noise. In tha guise the song makes so much more sense and the more pop-ready album version just doesn't hold a candle. But I don't want to be too harsh: the buzzsaw bass and the clattering percussion of the album version are still potent, as are the hooks which arguably do get a better chance to stand out in this version. It's a good song - just a classic misjudged lead single.

"Throw Me a Sun" is a slowburner, in that at first it sounds like an obvious discard but eventually reveals itself to be a potently soaring little number, moving from the gentle electronic momentum to a classic Guillemots soar. The polished production and the subtle, jittery electronic sounds are already familiar from the A-side but they sound more at their home here, as the song is built around them rather than trying to force a tune into that guise. It's a very good song and probably the highlight of the single, actually. The other b-side "Me Diz" is sung by Magrao in his native Portuguese, taking its musical cue from his South American roots with its gentle acoustic shuffle. It's a pleasant tune but Magrao's rough voice is an odd match; he's more in his element underneath grimy industrial noise, not on top of something more suave and romantic like this.

Physically: Slim jewel case with a band photo in the inner layout.


Release date: A-Side: B-Sides:
May 2008 7 7

1) Falling Out of Reach (Radio Mix); 2) Falling Out of Reach; 3) Trick of the Light

Yes, that's Sir Ian McKellen on the front cover. Polydor really tried to push Guillemots to be the next big thing with Red after the critical success of Through the Windowpane, and that's apparent in just about everything surrounding the actual album: the slickest songs being chosen as the radio singles, the big budget music videos (with McKellen starring on the video for this song), the plethora of primetime TV and other promotional appearances. It didn't have the result the label wanted and Guillemots were practically sidelined from their plans. Outside the vinyl-only "Kriss Kross" / "Clarion" double A-side (and its intentionally grimy and uncommercial video), this is the last real Guillemots single and after this they were largely left alone until the contract ran out.

On an album full of catchy - if a bit weird - bangers I don't think "Falling Out of Reach" would necessarily have been my choice for the second single, but I can see the intent: it's a smooth, gentle pop song with a pleasantly soaring chorus, something a little familiar from the debut era but with more of a mainstream polish and shine in its production. I may actually prefer the radio mix slightly, not because of the slightly but detectably tweaked mix but because the edited length actually works in the song's favour. "Falling Out of Reach" is a lovely song but takes a fair while to actually get to the bit where it gets really good and prior to it, it's a little too breezy in its steps. The snappier edit cuts down the wait time and besides a few awkward cuts (maybe only noticeable if you're as familiar with the album version as I am), the flow is a bit better.

"Trick of the Light", the sole b-side, has a bit of a story behind it. One of the promo exercises Guillemots took part in early on during the Red era was a Q Magazine online feature where bands were asked to write and record a song on the spot based on a title given. "Trick of the Light" is actually the song that the band came up with during the episode, although its original title "Seabirds" has been done away with (probably because Fyfe very obviously hated the obvious pun). You can still find an abridged segment of the full video on Youtube, though the full video has probably vanished into the digital ether, and it's a shame because it was a really fascinating look into how the song was built out of all kinds of seemingly random samples and loops using whatever they could find around the building (camera shutters, house keys, etc). It gives the song its distinctly fluttering sound, the layered percussion elements practically dripping down and ricocheting off the ground. On top is a bittersweetly delicate pop song with a really solid melody. It's almost brilliant and I'd hazard a guess that had it not been for the time constrictions, the band could have developed it a bit further; as it is, it's a fascinating production job and a good, distinctly memorable song that with a push could be a real keeper.

Physically: Slim jewel case with another still from the music video inside.



Years active: Genres:
2010 - Singer/songwriter, art pop

The on and off solo adventures of the Guillemots frontman.


Release year: Rating: Key tracks:
2010 6 "When You Walk in the Room", "Faster than the Setting Sun", "She Needs Me"

1) When You Walk in the Room; 2) So Brand New; 3) Barricades; 4) High on the Tide; 5) Faster than the Setting Sun; 6) Livewire; 7) Firebird; 8) She Needs Me; 9) Don't Be Shy; 10) Any Direction

Ostensibly a set of intentionally simple and intimate songs, derailed by its notably more exciting side tracts.

The idea that Dangerfield had for his surprise solo album was for it to be a creative reset of sorts. Guillemots' Red had taken a while to put together and had then left a trail of mixed critical impressions behind it following its release, and by Dangerfield's own (and vague) account touring the album had turned out to be unexpectedly difficult. As a preventive measure to avoid burning out of making music altogether, he booked a few days worth of studio time and invited his producer friend Adam Noble to tag along, going in with no real plans as to what was going to happen: the idea was just to write some music without second thoughts and to capture them on tape as quickly and uncomplicatedly as possible. The sessions turned out to be surprisingly fruitful as Dangerfield leaned on writing intentionally straightforward songs and deliberately avoided adorning them with production experiments and additional flourishes. He had also recently fallen in love and he used the feeling of those blissful first days of lovestruck happiness as his inspiration, capturing an emotional lightning in a bottle so to say (though sadly the couple ended up splitting by the time the album had come out, which makes it inadvertently a still of a very brief moment in time). So, to answer the pre-emptive question of what separates Fly Yellow Moon from Guillemots' material given Dangerfield's central role in writing the band's music, it's that the stakes have been very intentionally lowered: rather than ambitious wing-streching and majestic flights of fancy, these ten songs are a ragtag group of simple love songs sung by a troubadour who had fallen head over heels for someone. It's as straightforward as that.

Digging a little deeper, Fly Yellow Moon is a little more than "just" that. The initial direction that formed during the sessions was to release a classic singer/songwriter's album, with all the acoustic guitars, delicate pianos, light string accompaniments etc that come with such territory. For the bulk of the album Dangerfield is in his happily enamoured balladeering mode, and those songs move from Nick Drake-esque pieces of uplifting melancholy to cosy serenades suitable to soundtrack an elegant dinner party, but even Dangerfield himself can't restrain his own urges to take an enticing side route when the whim to do so pops in his head. As a result the album does go a little askew from its chosen path a few times: couple of the songs evoke the familiar maximalism of Guillemots more directly, others feature more prevalent guitar textures or a punchier production courtesy of Bernard Butler who popped by the studio one day, and both of the bookending songs feature a glossier synth-accentuated sound. It's a good amount of variety packed into a ten-song record, but that's where Fly Yellow Moon inadvertently causes itself to lose its balance. The album is a mixed bag both in cohesiveness and consistency and the issue, effectively, lies in the songs that go the extra mile in their production and arrangement choices: "When You Walk in the Room" stomps with frivolous abandon in pure glee that - if you squint - picks up where Red left off, "She Needs Me" is a stomping indie disco floor filler that's so assertive compared to the rest of the album that it's like an invader from a foreign region, "Faster than the Setting Sun" is an epic anthem that soars over with yearning and sweeping emotion, and even the leisurely bouncy "Any Direction" pops off thanks to its electronic sheen, perking up in a way most of the album doesn't. The problem isn't that these songs are bad, actually it's quite the opposite - those are the best songs on Fly Yellow Moon and by such a wide margin that the actual heart and core of the album doesn't appear as delightful when they're so overshadowed. Dangerfield is a natural showman and in the songs which are built around that - the first three listed in particular - he throws all of himself into the music, matching the bombast of the songs' emotional tones with melodies and hooks as bold and bright and a brighthearted giddiness in his vocals with ad libs (the quiet "thank you!" slipped after a line in "When You Walk in the Room" counts as its own hook in my books) and effortless switching between tones. "When You Walk in the Room" is a personal favourite of mine to the point I'd rank it as one of my favourite songs Dangerfield has done, simply because it never fails to make my heart sing with radiant joy, but the earnestly massive "She Needs Me" sounds like it has all the ingredients to be a stand-out hit single, and the fact that it wasn't is practically absurd; it's like it came to this world ready to own it and the way it pops up in the album, it comes with bold steps like it's the sudden appearance of That One Big Song You Know from years of general exposure. They're reminiscent of Guillemots' big gestures for sure, but still distinguishable enough from Dangerfield's then-day job in tone that you could see why he released them under his own name. The idea, I suppose, was that they'd bring some refreshing variety for the album, but it turns out they steal the spotlight altogether - and that's slightly awkward when it's clear that they're not meant to be what you tune to the album for.

To be clear, Dangerfield doesn't need an extravagant production behind him: the man has proven in many of his recordings and appearances prior to this that he's able to summon magic with the most skeletal accompaniments to his voice ("Blue Would Still Be Blue" off Through the Windowpane is literally just faint plinks and plonks and it's one of the most powerful moments on that album). The premise of plain and simple folk-pop songs in his hands isn't an inherently flawed starting point and to give the album its due credit, it's all an enjoyable listen - Dangerfield's voice always carries a lot of charisma and that alone immediately makes any song approachable. But, the usual resonance and warmth that's accompanied Dangerfield in the past isn't quite there in the six songs that make up the album's real meat. It's difficult to explain but the music feels poignantly distant and impersonal throughout, almost like Dangerfield had a concept in his head of what kind of album he should be making and then put on the role of the kind of artist who could write such a record. In songs like "Firebird", "Don't Be Shy", "High on the Tide" or "Barricades", it's like there's a wall between Dangerfield and the music preventing them from fully connecting, as if he's not playing his own songs. Maybe to prove a point, it's worth nothing that the only genuine hit from this era isn't actually on (this version of) the album: Dangerfield was asked to record a cover of Billy Joel's "She's Always a Woman" for a TV advert and it turned out to be so successful that it carried the album on its back for a good several months longer than the era would have had life in it otherwise, even triggering an expanded reissue in its wake. It's an OK version, very much in line with any piano-focal cover that British TV adverts are seemingly obsessed about - and yet for a tacked-on addendum recorded after everything else, it fits so perfectly with what's on the actual album that the comparison isn't necessarily complimentary for the album. Fly Yellow Moon aspires to be the work of a heartfelt troubadour, and maybe it's the concise recording process or maybe it's the production choices made, but instead of its acoustic ballads being intimate and resonant torch songs, they sound like covers you'd quickly put together as bonus tracks even though they're all from Dangerfield's pen. Dangerfield proves what an all-encompassing performer he is in the likes of "She Wants Me" or "When You Walk in the Room", and that same engaging voice is nowhere to be found in the calmer moments. Instead his approach is closer to that of a session musician laying down his placeholder vocal tracks before the actual artist arrives - "Barricades" in particular, pretty as it can be, could have come from any post-Adele hopeful's mid-album ballad run.

Fly Yellow Moon still sticks like a pleasant album does, even outside its attention-hogging outliers: "Livewire" is particularly lovely and comes closest to hitting the mark on what the album intended to be, and "So Brand New" is like a good demo of what could be a great song, introducing a bit of a bounce into the album's central formula. It's a solid enough album to last repeat listens but it only ever leaves you wanting more when those stylistic shifts occur, and in-between them you have a number of songs destined to be fill gaps in automatically generated playlists with titles like Acoustic Moods or Cosy Autumn Evenings. It has a few keepers and in the end it did what Dangerfield wanted it to do, i.e. recharging his mojo ahead of starting work on the next Guillemots album; but if a solo album is meant to highlight the artist's own particular personality and style outside their regular band, Dangerfield ends up making his less identifiable.

Physically: Jewel case, with a booklet full of photos from the album cover shooting sessions - no lyrics. The credits end up being the highlight, written by Dangerfield himself with loads of little anecdotes and descriptions instead of just a dry list of names.


Release year: Rating: Key tracks:
2021 7 "Birdwatcher", "Lochinver"

1) Woah! Life; 2) One Truth Remains; 3) Birdwatcher; 4) The Sea House; 5) Lochinver; 6) Lying There

A careful return with a classic sound, though still a teaser for more.

Dangerfield emerged from his hiatus of almost a decade long during the pandemic, with his one-man episodic online radio show The Birdwatcher. The weekly episodes for half-hour half-improvised mixes of cryptic monologues, ambient textures and - most excitingly - brand new music. The Birdwatcher was curious but affable experience overall, one of those things you kind of looked forward to during the lockdown heydays, and part of that excitement was not in just hearing Dangerfield display his songcrafting skills once more but in how good that music was. The tracks yearned back to his strengths as a wizard of expansive soundscapes, soaring melodic swoons and resonant drama, and maybe in another lifetime could have been part of Guillemots' repertoire.

The Birdwatcher EP was meant to be the first taster of a full album comprised of Dangerfield's favourite songs from the show sessions, but like seemingly so many of the projects he starts, that follow-up disappeared in an eerily familiar limbo of what feels like crippling perfectionism and scope creep. That's a shame, because as nice as it is The Birdwatcher EP is just a teaser: this is really just a three-song single because half of the tracklist entries are interludes, the actual songs are drawn from the first couple of episodes alone and they all trail on the same path. During the run of the show Dangerfield experimented with various whims that came to his mind and amongst those songs were stargazing ballads, theatrical epics and swanky pop songs - of those three rough categories, only the first one is really represented on this EP, with a little flirtation towards the second. These songs do make a good soft introduction to the wider project but in terms of representing the best of what it has to offer it doesn't get quite far.

Nonetheless, what's here is still good. "Woah! Life" is the atmospheric opening to not just the EP but the whole project, Dangerfield navigating existential questions in a spacey atmosphere interrupted by bursts of tasteful cacophony. "Birdwatcher" is a gently swaying ballad and the best song of the EP, clinging tightly to the heartstrings with a classic Dangerfield vocal and a sense of softly building drama that eventually bittersweetly but beautifully unfolds into a song far bigger than its sparse beginnings convey. "Lochinver" is meant to be the stand-out showpiece with its ten-minute, multi-part suite mentality: it's the only one of the three songs that actually gets a little kick underneath it as its already-familiar slowburn drawl is interrupted by a series of bright horns and a sudden percussive groove that follows immediately afterwards, expanding the palette for a few giddy minutes before the song returns to its original territory. It's a good song but you get the feeling that it never quite reaches what it aims for, and that could in part be because of the quickly-written nature of the project that's left it a little raw in the middle. As for "One Truth Remains", "The Sea House" and "Lying There", they're all collages of distorted speech, odd sound effects and occasional pieces of minimalist music - so just padding to segue the songs together, much like similar segments did on the show.

The Birdwatcher series is still online in its parent Channels May Change website (just google it) and it's worth a check if you are at all Dangerfield/Guillemots-inclined: your mileage may wary on the more conceptual elements but there's a lot of lovely music hidden within the episodes. This EP is ultimately a very superficial glance at the project and thanks to its brevity and relatively light content it's not quite meaty enough to be something you could truly tell everyone to go out their way to listen, and it mainly feels like a careful nod at the established fanbase hungry for more. But it has served as Dangerfield's gentle comeback to the world of recording arts as while the album didn't end up happening, a drip-feed of the odd single has followed on the EP's trail to hint that something's moving. If you're starved to hear Dangerfield again though, this at the very least makes it clear his talent hasn't vanished anywhere over the years.

Physically: n/a, this is a digital only release.

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