Tim and Sam - Life Stream

Chris Tapley 24/05/2010

Rating: 3.5/5

As the first hints of summer begin to show themselves it's inevitable that you'll soon be digging through your music collection to find those upbeat sun drenched albums that haven't been heard since what seems like forever ago, but was really just last summer. You can save yourself that search this year though because Life Stream is most probably the summer soundtrack you're after.

It would be easy to dismiss Tim and Sam's Tim and the Sam band with Tim and Sam as a bit of a novelty, the name practically does it for you. Whilst that particular career decision may have to be considered ill-conceived thankfully the opposite is true of their sound; a lovely fusion of orchestral folk, twee and post-rock. Life Stream is a beautifully constructed mesh of wistful strings, hazy ivory twinkles and 'aren't these the days of our lives' type lyrics. That might sound a bit cynical, and it is I guess, but the fact is despite my awareness of that I still can't help but be drawn in to the giddy happiness of it all. The opening double of 'Sparks' and 'Summer Solstice' are the perfect representation of the album, the former blooming in to life with joyous swells of trumpet and luscious strings. Then the latter, a previous single, is the group at their pastoral best layering piano, strings and brass to form an irresistibly catchy melody which seems effortless in it's intricacy.

The largely acoustic pallet chimes perfectly with the warm optimism which rings throughout all of the tracks here, even the slightly more downbeat ones. There are moments of melancholy littered throughout, such as the doleful piano opening to 'All Tucked Up' which is complemented by violin and lashed guitars to form an increasingly frantic coda which renders it one of the most beautifully accomplished tracks here. Outshone only perhaps by 'Reflections' which manages to morph several times over the course of it's four minutes. From the sorrowful opening guitar to the remarkably evocative brass which makes up the 'chorus', it exudes the naïve positivity which is at the heart of all of their compositions and makes the band impossible not to warm to.

Aside from maybe suffering from a slight lack of variation the only place where the album falls down is with the vocals, something which is understandable given they were initially intended to be handled by a series of guest vocalists rather than the band themselves. As it is though the boy-girl harmonies suit the music perfectly despite occasionally tipping things over in to 'too twee' territory, particularly with the aforementioned saccharine lyrical themes. Though given that they only appear on a handful of tracks this is a minor flaw, and the number of adjectives used in this review which roughly equate to 'nice' effectively says all that you need to know about this album. It is a startlingly accomplished debut from a group treading their own stylistic path which is simultaneously adventurous and accessible, and If you're looking for something to brighten up your day then this will undoubtedly fit the bill.

Release date: 03/5/10