By Alisa Pierce
Album: Little Fictions
Release Date: February 3, 2017
Little Fictions is the seventh studio album from the English rock band Elbow. The band has traditionally focused on progressive rock, a genre they’ve redefined by using tame guitar riffs and orchestral compositions, but have been known to produce albums that incorporate more than one category of music. Despite the band’s genre jumping, Elbow has narrowed down their sound in the twenty-five years they’ve been active by surging back and forth between an emo-style of progressive rock and a more aggressive tone which emerged in their later albums. Little Fictions provides over two decades worth of the band reinventing itself, yet the album stays true to Elbow’s focus on dramatic and reflective songwriting.
The deep songwriting focus can be seen first through the album art, which shows a young woman walking amid a vast sea and towering rock structures. This gives the album a lonely, yet exploratory feel that later saturates the music. The cover art grabs the attention of anyone looking for an interesting album to listen to, and fortunately the art’s promises are fulfilled by the album’s tracks.
Elbow’s debut album, Asleep in the Back, was dreamy and contemplative, while their newest album, Little Fictions, is more direct. The same fanciful and pensive tone remains, but through the years the band’s songwriting has let go of the questions and instead begun to grasp for answers. Little Fictions is a mature album which focuses on an introspective version of progress, as well as forgiveness and love. The album seeks answers while taking on a positive tone and focusing solely on romance and personal evolution through the first six tracks. “Gentle Storm” and “Trust the Sun”, tracks two and three, are whimsical and loving with lyrics such as “I will fly swift and straight to you / Like an arrow / Just to be where you lie” and “I just don’t trust the sun to rise / When I can’t see your eyes / You’re my reason for breathing”. This gives the album it’s love ballads. The romantic tone in the first few tracks work well with the next three songs in the album, “All Disco”, “Head for Supplies”, and “Firebrand & Angel”. These songs switch the album’s focus from love to the band member’s inner monologues.
“All Disco” is the most mature of the album, rivaled only by track nine, “Little Fictions”. “All Disco” tells the tale of forlorn artists telling themselves to relax, which can be seen through the lyrics “Come to the river sun / Let your obsession go / What does it prove if you die for a tune?” and “Let’s be a hundred and five you and I / And sing out a tune of regret to the moon / Perverted old timers / I’ll feed you one liners”. “Head for Supplies” is more supportive with lyrics “Now I’m here at your side / We Try to rhyme our stride / And head for supplies” which seem to focus on not only love, but also surviving a particularly rough patch of life. The two songs go nicely together and are supported by dreamlike synth and mellow strums of the guitar.
“Firebrand & Angel”, track six, changes the tone on the album more directly than the songs before it. The track switches the theme from love and support to a more depressed version of introspection. Lyrics such as “When you’re in her mirror you don’t even know / Your own green eyes” hints that this track was written during a time of frank realization. This is followed nicely by “K2”, “Montparnasse”, and “Little Fictions”, tracks seven, eight, and nine respectively. These songs stay true to the themes in “Firebrand & Angel”, and often stray further from the album’s original positivity and delve deeper into sadder themes. These songs tell the story of someone who is lost, hurt, and brooding with lyrics “Picturing and wishing for home”, “Gatecrashing weddings and swatting memories of you”, and “Confessions from the cab, a habit that I got from dad”.
All of these songs, which might seem lyric heavy, are not presented as such. The lyrics are often muffled, mumbled, or hidden behind interplays of piano and percussion. All ten tracks on the album present echoing vocals telling stories of time passing and memories collecting, while listeners are given a taste of positivity and then melancholy. Although this mellow sadness seems daunting, Little Fictions is a charming addition to Elbow’s album list.