Hearts might well burst under prolonged exposure to this record.
Martin Aston 2012
Given its strong pockets of similarly inspired bands, "Scottish Indie" is a genre of its own, though it’s been through various mutations. In the immediate post-punk era, it was the Postcard label’s witty, acerbic guitar-pop (Orange Juice, Josef K, Aztec Camera), then the blue-eyed soul-pop version (Friends Again, Del Amitri, Hipsway), and nowadays it’s emotion-soaked widescreen melancholia, spearheaded by My Latest Novel, Frightened Rabbit, The Twilight Sad and last, but not least, Admiral Fallow.
Not least because the Glaswegian quintet are the scene’s most thoughtful brand of emo-scaping, more concerned with simmering space and dynamics than outright brow-beating. The opening title(ish) track surges and slow-burns like prime Elbow; Guy Garvey is a Fallow fan, and there’s indeed something Garvey-like about singer-guitarist Louis Abbott.
But it’s still smaller-scale, tense, and all the better for its restraint. Any band featuring clarinet and flute won’t be climbing the barricades any time soon, and flautist Sarah Hayes’ prominent backing vocals says even more about the inbuilt delicacy.
But this is delicacy with a bruising intent. The title of this follow-up to their fine debut album Boots Met My Face (its title derived from school-day memories rather than gang warfare) may suggest something pretty and poetic. But Abbott says Tree Bursts in Snow refers to "the sound and the image of an artillery shell exploding into a cluster of snow-drenched trees," triggered by global gun-related crimes, especially in America.
There’s no outright polemic to the album but threads of anger, frustration and a lust for (a better) life are tangled up across the board. Musically, it’s both moody and approachable: The Paper Trench has that Mumfords-style foot-stomping tack; Burn and Old Fools mirror the poise and class of a Elbow ballad (and the latter also resembles minor-key Coldplay); and Isn’t This World Enough?? portrays Fallow’s happy-clappy side, and is the track most likely to plonk them on the radio.
All the unsalvageable miserablists out there should also head to the gorgeous and wistful Beetle in the Box, while the closing Oh, Oscar might even be the best track, a gently stark ballad that’s both heart-aching and -warming.
Of all present Scots Indie torchbearers, Frightened Rabbit are the most irresistible; but Admiral Fallow are close behind. Hearts might well burst under prolonged exposure to this record.