Label: Gizeh Records
Modern times are feeling increasingly fractured, with public life becoming split in to ever-more divisive categories. Whether it’s in politics or the media, recent years have been defined in large part by division – just look at the politics of Trump, or Brexit, and the rise in authoritarianism in countries like Hungary. It’s as if the world is, after a period of closer unity, moving apart in hostile ways. It’s difficult not to place The Shadows, the second album from Tomorrow We Sail, in this context. Their music blends post-rock with indie and folk sounds, creating something that feels as if it is longing for people to come together, to recognise all the things that unite us, and stop the slow descent in to war and disharmony that we all seem to be moving toward.
There is a fragility to the sound of The Shadows, a kind of grace and softness that feels as if it might shatter were the listener to try to grasp it. As well as guitar, bass, and drums, the album makes plentiful use of piano and violins, giving The Shadows a feeling of quiet grandeur. There are none of the quiet-loud-quiet-loud movements you might expect from post-rock, but instead there is an understanding of the importance of atmosphere that makes it sit within the genre to some extent, and the way that the overall feel of the songs is more important than their constituent parts. It is a record that, if allowed to wash over the listener, will immerse you in its calming, emotionally-charged waters.
Yet, unlike a lot of post-rock, there are also real songs here, and the lyrics and vocals are vitally important to what Tomorrow We Sail set out to achieve. The use of male and female vocals, from mutli-instrumentalists Tim Hay and Ella Blake, helps give the album an extra sense of character; they’re both excellent vocalists, conveying depths of emotion without ever feeling melo-dramatic. Though the album does tell a story, with lines about finding new scapegoats, disregarding facts and expertise so that lies become truths, and a sense of a good name being lost, it is hard not to place it within the modern context of Brexit. This is most notable on closer ‘The Golden Elevator’, a song that is simultaneously mourning what has been lost whilst celebrating a sense of defiance that has not been defeated. The closing moments, in particular, are heart-breakingly beautiful, combining post-rock soundscapes with cathartic sing-along vocals, that will surely see more than a few tears shed when played live.
What impresses most about The Shadows, though, is how much it achieves, and how forceful it is, whilst being incredibly restrained. There are no moments of volume, and the music is instead defined by a stately pace and sense of grace that sees almost alien in our modern world. Whilst this might suggest a certain aloofness, nothing could be farther from the truth; its sadness, and quiet resistance to hate, instead feels rooted in the small, everyday ways that we can all combat division, with those quiet acts of resistance against the forces that would turn us against one another. The Shadows is a wonderful record, and feels like a small flame of hope in a world that risks forgetting the meaning of the word.