For a band like The Granite Shore, there are multiple methods of approaching the act. Some of us might get into the band because of the connection to Phil Wilson of The June Brides, even though the band is largely the project of Nick Halliwell of The Distractions. And if we start listening to The Granite Shore because of either of those 2 legendary musicians, is that to neglect the other talented players in this group, like one-time Only Ones drummer Mike Kellie? Or the appearances of guys like Martin Bramah of The Blue Orchids and an early line-up of The Fall?
So, yeah, The Granite Shore is a super-group of sorts. But what of the music on new album, Once More From The Top, out very soon on Occultation Recordings? What does The Granite Shore sound like?
Well, this is serious music that is not pretentious. It's music that skirts the edges of folk, chamber rock, and C86-inspired stuff while seemingly creating a new genre. It's music that is quietly affecting and still pretty catchy.
So I'd like to now get the word out on the beautiful tune-age on Once More From The Top from The Granite Shore.
"Artiste & Repertoire" opens with talk of how we "...torn the old world down" even as the cut feels like something from another, more perfect era. Halliwell's vocals here are warm and the effect is one of enveloping you in the world of this band. "Nine Days' Wonder" offers a sprighly melody and a hook that is poised somewhere between the tunes of The Lilac Time or The Wild Swans.
The languid "The Management" gives way to the nearly-jaunty "Fan Club Newsletter no. 44" which bears worthy comparisons to stuff like "The Wrong Road" by The Go-Betweens.
"Backstage at the Ballroom" adds in a vaguely country-ish sort of twang to the music, though it's a subtle twang, and "Recorded Sound" shares a truly beautiful melody and a supremely wistful mood for one of the highlights of Once More from The Top.
"Keepting Time" and "Now, Therefore..." mine similar veins of stately chamber pop while "Widows and Orphans" soars on its bright and big chorus. There's something here that made me think of The Moody Blues but what Halliwell and crew are really concerned with on Once More from the Top are personal spaces and not cosmic planes. This is personal music that rewards a listener's attention.
Album closer "Be that as it may" is a nearly-epic, meditative song that sums up the thematic concerns of the record. The way Nick Halliwell sings this made me recall the Richard Davies-led tracks on the Cardinal album, or even something from The Apartments. This song, like most of the cuts on Once More from the Top, is the sort of well-constructed indie pop that is of another era. That is not to peg The Granite Shore as revivalists but, rather, to peg them as classicists, of a sort.
What the players here have done so well is create what will be seen as one of 2015's most sublime records. I know I tout myself as a fan of stuff that's crunchy and poppy and meant to be played loudly on a car stereo, but I grew up on thoughtful pop like The Go-Betweens and The Blue Nile too. And the music of The Granite Shore belongs in a class with the music of those bands.
If The Granite Shore do get lumped in with anything it will undoubtedly be a sort of return to the glory days of the C86 "jangle rock" movement, probably 'cause of the presence of June Bride Phil Wilson here. But, really, that's a lazy attribution because this sort of music is not so easy to simply categorize. There are shades of feeling here that bear repeated, careful listenings and I'd say that with Once More from the Top a listener should devote him- or herself completely to this entire record in one sitting.
Once More from the Top is now available for pre-order from Occultation Recordings.
You can follow the exploits of The Granite Shore on their official Facebook page.