Elbow – Giants of All Sizes

After a couple of albums where their fire seemed to cool somewhat, on Giants of All Sizes, English post-Britpop band Elbow have returned to form, displaying the kind of sweeping melodic sensibilities and insightful lyrics that first won them acclaim with their debut, 2001’s Asleep in the Back. It’s good to hear that middle age hasn’t mellowed them yet, and that they still have sharp insights about the state of the world.

With his thick Northern English accent and astute and likable persona, frontman and lyricist Guy Garvey has always come across like everyone’s favorite uncle, no matter how serious his subject matter may be. “And I don’t know Jesus anymore/ And endless sleep is awaiting me/ And I haven’t finished yet,” he sings on “Dexter & Sinister,” the first single. The track is full of disjointed guitars and clattering percussion before segueing into a ringing, swaying outro featuring a strong performance from guest vocalist Jesca Hoop. “White Noise White Heat” has an even more harrowing narrative, as Garvey describes how he will “pick the broken dreams that hang in city center trees,” conjuring up the desperation of modern urban living against a grandiose backdrop of cinematic strings and swaggering percussion. The reflective “My Trouble” has a gentle wistfulness, like a sad lullaby, especially when Garvey adopts a yearning tone for the soaring ending.

Still, despite Garvey’s often angry or saddened words, this does not seem like a bleak album overall – there is a sense of optimism that all is not yet lost. “This day is made of hope and space/ And hope like I have never known,” Garvey declares in “On Deronda Road,” his exuberant delivery floating over elegantly restrained electronica instrumentation. Intellectual yet down to earth, Giants of All Sizes is an album that both provokes thoughts of life’s trials while simultaneously offering comfort for them.

Giants of All Sizes
[Polydor/Verve Label Group]