“Highly assured, arresting stuff, showcasing multi-textural depth and intricate interplay often absent in mainstream rock bands…”
Admiral Fallow | Tree Bursts In Snow
The gleaming new LP from hotly-tipped Scottish indie-folk outfit Admiral Fallow kicks off at a stately, sedate pace. The delicate vocals and key-playing of Sarah Hayes leads off, joined by frontman Louis Abbott after the opening few bars, pronounced Scottish accent very much to the fore as he intones “my body is broken and bruised”.
Much like its predecessor Boots Met My face, this is a lush, self-assured piece of work taking in widescreen rock, good-time folk stomps and slices of spacious melancholy.
Inevitable journalistic attempts to tag them as part of some Glasgow “scene” fall flat. There are some striking similarities with Frightened Rabbit, and indeed a hodgepodge of all sorts of other influences (Arcade Fire’s euphoria, the baroque pop with which Belle and Sebastian made their name, and the woodwind-and-harmonies sound of The Low Anthem spring to mind). But Admiral Fallow’s blend of said influences adds up to a sound that is very much their own.
The Glaswegian five-piece’s attempt to straddle the divide between worlds rock and folk can be a fine balancing act. Defying rigid categorisation, they are welcome on the bill at trad and pop festivals alike, but Abbott has spoken of mixed feelings at the inevitable parallels drawn with other folk-inclined groups.
Admiral Fallow have been ploughing their own furrow for six years now, he said earlier this spring, and it “grates a little when people are dismissive about us thinking we’ve borrowed a style from another band, whoever that may be”. The “Scottish Mumford & Sons” tag some wish to brand them with is a red herring – these guys possess oodles more colour, verve and lyrical intelligence than those ubiquitous folk-poppers.
The Fallow formula essentially buttresses the standard indie-rock line-up with clarinet (Kevin Brolly), flute, piano and accordion (Hayes). The latter’s Northumbrian tones dovetail neatly with Abbott’s overtly north-of-the-border inflections to provide a marked, yet harmonious contrast. The entire backing band, completed by drummer Phil Hague and bassist Joe Rattray, contribute vocals.
The two trailer singles from Tree Bursts in Snow are gloriously up-tempo – the rollicking, radio-bothering rock of ‘The Paper Trench’ and, in ‘Beetle in the Box’, a jaunty, jangling little gem of a pop song. They are more than matched by the effervescent ‘Guest of the Government’ and the thunderous clatter of ‘Brother’.
Elsewhere, as on the graceful ‘Old Fools’ and stark closing ballad ‘Oh, Oscar’, the band is commendably restrained. After a few listens, it’s hard to decide whether ‘Isn’t This World Enough?’ (the song here most likely to generate air time) and its plaintive refrain constitutes a stirring anthem, or a drift into more mawkish terrain. Probably the former.
At this stage of their career, it’s fair to say Admiral Fallow are still growing into their boots. But this is highly assured, arresting stuff, showcasing multi-textural depth and intricate interplay often absent in mainstream rock bands.