For a while it seemed as though Bolton’s Simon Aldred had had his 15 minutes in the spotlight with debut album Thirst For Romance when initial interest began to wave. However, three years later, he returned with new impetus on Beneath This Burning Shoreline, an album that revealed a brooding romantic who shared a kinship with Northern neighbour Richard Hawley and Scott Walker.
Enlisting Hawley’s producer, Colin Elliot, the same holds true of this gorgeous third offering, once again heavy with an air of either rainy nights, wet streets and reflections of lights or conjuring images of staring out from some balcony over the Paris rooftops at dusk.
However, while still indulging in melancholia and populated by troubled souls, this is a considerably less dark album than its predecessor; there’s no tales of domestic abuse, spiritual crisis or murder ballads here, not unless you count the death of love. It’s a much more about fractured or separated hearts, ranging from the lush widescreen ‘things will get better’ opener Clear Skies Ever Closer to the put on a brave face Sacramento (“the smiles on the outside couldn’t be further from the truth if they tried”), its lovers forced apart by the need to find work.
Separation (this time by foreign skies rather than a couple of states) also informs the dreamy My Lover Lies Under with its pizzicato strings as he croons “I do believe I’ve lost my faith in Hollywood” to a chorus melody that slightly suggests Jealous Guy.
It’s not all loaded with massive orchestral arrangements, The World Could Turn is an echoey, cascading chords uplifting (life’s for living) number that hints at Brian Wilson and Love Will Follow You a frisky snare drum shuffle, while pedal steel inveigles its way into the shimmering ambience of the title track’s reminiscence of younger days and stolen kisses and the timeless absinthe makes the heart grow fonder Walkerish feel of Drinking For Two.
That said, it’s when Aldred pulls out all the stops, as on the holding on to love that’s gone sentiments of the Philly meets Northern soul Don’t Leave Me Here Alone, that the album really soars, and you’d be foolish not to grab hold of the string and let it carry you aloft too.
Review by: Mike Davies
Released on Heavenly, out now