We have an interesting mix of releases this this week, hopefully one a day, and a couple of live previews too for events in London and Manchester, and we'll start off with an artist who originates from Manchester but is now based in Copenhagen. Liam Mullany is the founder of Logans Runners, but critically he's collected a lovely assortment of musicians around him, and the result is an unusual, but always musical release in their 'Sandbox' EP.
There are 4 tracks on the EP which is a curious mix of folk rock, progressive elements and neo-classical, but the key thing that brings it all together are big melodies, ambitious musical arrangements and always interesting lyrics. It all works really well.
'Tear Off My Mask' opens with a dramatic string flourish, and even more dramatic vocal entry, but then it builds up with a melodic theme that I really like, and sweeps into a series of colourful climaxes, always led by those unrelenting strings. Lyrically 'Liam Mullany' has a lot to say, adopting a storyteller approach at times, and in this track there's maybe a hint of Neil Hannon (Divine Comedy) in the vocal style. Alongside the harmonies courtesy of Rowan Lark and Rosalie Warner, there is just so much going on, and this is a track that just demands to be listened to again to appreciate its complexity.
'This City' feels like it has more of a folk rock influence, it certainly isn't as complex as the opening track, it has big anthemic chorus, and whilst I don't identify with it quite as much as the opener, I still love the lush string instrumentation, and the way the track builds to a climax 3 minutes is particularly lovely - along with the piano flourishes that follow, and the modern sounding instrumental section that concludes the track. 'Superman Suit' is more reflective, and has grown into my favourite track on the album - it opens slowly, but I just love the vocal contribution from Rowan Lark, and the string contribution is brought in with a real subtlety, with the lyrics possibly the most beautiful and heartfelt words I've heard in a song for a long time - written to help cope with the loss of his mother, the 'superman suit' is her old scratchy jumper: ''Come on my dear put on your superman suit... /.... it's all you need to change this cruel world''.
In the final final track 'The Bluebonic Plague' sets out the dangers of 'the echo chamber' in a world led by social media, and the division of the country (and world) into increasingly vitriolic tribes, I'm guessing post-Brexit and Trump. It's something I've considered a fair bit given my passions (and general fury) on both issues, but yet I wonder sometimes whether i fuel my own vitriol by only listening to the voices I want to hear. Anyway musically its led by driven strings, maintains the same ambitious musical arrangements with complex rhythms, an imperious trumpet solo and thoughtful piano contribution, before building to a conclusion with a beautiful melodic theme and 'My Life Story' style flourish to end.
This is an impressive release from 'Logans Runners', ambitiously written and brilliantly performed by a collection of evidently outstanding musicians. Whether the dramatic vocal style will be to everyone's liking, well I'll leave that for you to discover for yourself, but I think it works well with the style of music and lyrics. With influences from as diverse as Oceansize (still one of the greatest bands), Chopin and Elvis Costello, this is such an original creation, and I really hope that both they and 'Sandbox' can get some attention in 2018, because it really deserves a wide audience.
The lovely EP artwork was courtesy of Iain North.