Guillemots - Through The Windowpane

Bill Cummings 19/07/2006

Rating: 4/5

Do you believe in dreams? Do you remember the first time you fell in love? Do you remember the first time a record sent shivers down your spine? Guillemots do, and they're here with their debut 'Through The Windowpane' to make you believe all over again. Hailing from literally all for corners of the planet (Birmingham, Canada, Brazil, and Scotland, Guillemots) are the brilliantly-named Fyfe Dangerfield (singer and keyboard), MC Lord Magrão (guitar), Aristazabal Hawkes (double-bass), and Rican Caol (percussion).

'Through The Windowpane' enters stage left with a symphony orchestral instrumental, the melancholic peaks and troughs of which are grandly melancholic and ever so faintly reminiscent of the opening of Mansun's 'Attack of the Grey Lantern'. This bleeds into the wonder that is 'Little Bear': sparingly beautiful with lonely pianos and vocals, its cinematic majesty in slow motion, like a shrug of the shoulders, or the smile on the corner of your mouth after a flood of tears.

'Made Up Love Song #43' is a stupendous post-modern pop song: awe-inspiring harmonies rise and rise to wondrous peaks of falsetto, it's Puff The Magic Dragon meets The Flaming Lips, the knowing lyrical lines are the aural equivalent of never giving up on love (“The Best things come from nowhere/ I love you, I don't think you care”). Judging them on this single alone, critics may lazily see Guillemots as Coldplay-esque balladeers with extra Jazzy elements, but that would be too miss the complexity of these multi instrumental arrangements, the wonder of these vocals, the fact that this is great pop music of the kind many of their contemporaries can only stand back and admire.

'Trains to Brazil' gallops joyously into view, jazzy percussive verses are mixed with breakdowns that reveal moments of real emotional clarity, its excellent, almost Eleanor Rigby-esque lyrics ("I still think of you on cold winter mornings/Darling they still remind me when we were at school/When they could never have persuaded me that lives like yours were in the hands of these erroneous fools") add up to a heady mix: like drinking a cocktail on a summer's day before slumping back in your chair.

Elsewhere 'Redwings' is gorgeous: featuring guest vocals by Joan as Police Woman, Fyfe breathes the spirit of Jeff Buckley into these haunting tinkling, country arrangements; it could bring a tear to the stoniest heart. The keening blast of naked vocals and haunting instrumentation that make up 'Come Away With Me' reveal a superb title track that mixes tinkling keys with tumbling rhythms, and Fyfe's absolutely amazing falsettos that scream off into the distance, Its Honda's “The Power Of Dreams” times ten.

First single 'We're Here' is uplifting, vastly orchestrated pop music, decorated by Fyfe's heart bursting vocals, naturalistic images are infused with overblown melodies bringing to mind The Spectorish pop stylings of Mcalmont and Butler. Essentially a song about savouring each moment of your life: enjoying those small triumphs, and dancing your heart out. ("The world is our carpet now/The world is our dance floor now.") This is glorious bittersweet pop that just about keeps its toes on the right side of the line between, emotional and overly sentimental.

There are a few blemishes here though, 'If The World Ends' sounds like a strange pastiche of Wicked Game, ultimately it ends up going nowhere special.On the positive side the blinking, clicking 'Annie Let's Not Wait' is the Beach Boys gone ethnic, its spinning melodic lines and samba rhythms are an absolute delight to these ears. Closer 'Sao Paulo' is a gem of a song: its eleven minutes begin with classical piano notes before veering into insistent rhythms, deaf defying strings and a repeated melancholic refrains (“Sometimes I cry for Miles/Sometimes I could cry for miles”) a breakdown that shimmers in the Brazilian midnight sky, before a myriad of instrumentals spin and burst pushing it into a totally different tempo, like a James Bond Theme tune given a “world” feel: horns, strings, and urgent poetic couplets collide in one last glorious crescendo, Simply an amazing full stop to an album of the highest heights and the lowest lows.

Some might see Guillemots' tendency to cram all of their ideas into every note, every vocal line, every inventive instrumental as overblown and pretentious, but sometimes great pop music is both of these things. If you're willing to open up your ears and heart and let this largely stunning record grab you by the hand and pull you out of the windowpane into endless dream worlds of inventive emotive pop, you might just have heard one of the best albums of 2006 so far.