Fans of Fence Records would have been forgiven for reacting with dismay to Johnny Lynch’s (aka The Pictish Trail) announcement last August that the label was coming to an end. However, the launch of Lynch’s Lost Map record label, along with Kenny Anderson’s (aka King Creosote) planned re-launch of Fence provided some reassurance that the pair will continue to promote and release folky/ indie music from Scotland and beyond. The release of Clumsy Knot, Glasgow-based Randolph’s Leap’s excellent debut album, and the second album to be released by Lost Map, should provide confidence in the label’s future.
Those familiar with Randolph’s Leap may be surprised to see this described as their debut album. The band has already built up a fairly extensive back catalogue of self-released, home-recorded mini-albums. Though half the songs on this album are home recorded, the album as a whole sees a marked step up in production from their previous work. The combination of Adam Ross’s heartfelt, honest and witty lyrics together with the richness provided by the band’s string and a brass section, has already won them many admirers including 6 Music’s Marc Riley, for whom they have recorded two live sessions. The band’s slightly ramshackle, whimsical, indie style, together with their Glasgow base, makes comparisons to Belle and Sebastian unavoidable, though, at times there are also hints of Camera Obscura, Polyphonic Spree and The Magnetic Fields.
It is Ross’s lyrics, which manage to be both humorous and heartbreaking, that sets the band apart from these influences. These are particularly evident on ‘Weatherman’, a song about a man’s petty assessments of an ex-girlfriend’s new man. Any song that includes the putdown, “He talks like a weatherman,” deserves to be widely heard. Even better, though, are the lines, “You said, “he’s a barrister actually/ I said, “Does that mean he makes coffee?””
A recurrent theme in Ross’s lyrics is the desire to reconnect with nature. Hermit is a joyous celebration of cutting oneself off from the modern world. The song is also a perfect showcase for both Heather Thikey’s violin and Fraser Gordon’s trombone. Similarly, Isle of Love talks about the joys to be found on Hebridean Islands, where, “we can get away from the noise and chatter/ and reconnect with the things that matter.”
It is noticeable that it is these songs that are both the most upbeat and make the most use of the bands string and brass sections. On the other hand, Gina, a song about a wage slave pleading with his boss to give him some time off to attend a series of significant life events, features only Ross’s vocals accompanied by a keyboard and guitar. The message is clear, life’s joy and richness are to be found in remote islands and woods not by working in an office.
The albums’ highlight is the final track, I Can’t Dance To This Music Anymore, which returns to the theme of the need to escape city life. The line, “On a city train and wishing I could be more free,” encapsulates the yearning to return to the country that Ross returns to throughout the album. It is a fitting end to a thoughtful, funny and uplifting album that deserves a wide audience.
Review by: Alfred Archer
Released via Lost Map Records 7th Apr 2014
Launch show at Kinning Park Complex, Glasgow on Saturday, April 5.