The debut album from Oxford folk band Stornoway is a sweetly-played, harmony-addled delight. Perfect tunes for the muggy days of summer ahead.
When your debut album kicks off with a track as blindingly brilliant as 'Zorbing', it's pretty much game, set and match. That's how Stornoway operate: hook you in with an evocative lyric, a swoonsome melody or a cluster of cosy harmonies and you're theirs for the taking. The Oxford band are led by guitarist, vocalist and former choirboy Brian Briggs, and it's his voice that's much of this album hinges on, in truth; a pure, semi-nasal trill, it soars over these gentle folk-pop tunes and drives them forward with confidence.
It is he who is also responsible for the album's fine lyrical content, evoking vivid images with lines as simple as "Conkers shining on the ground, the air is cooler, and I feel like I just started uni" or "I am a seabird, you are the Arctic Ocean", although admittedly, his notebook descends into 'unbearably twee' territory on occasion, as heard on 'Fuel Up''s "Now you're the passenger to your own heart".
Simplicity is the name of the game for Stornoway, though, who have made a warm, organic and full-sounding album with relatively basic tools. Most of these songs are based around acoustic guitar, the soft patter of a drum and perhaps a banjo here (the excellent 'We Are the Battery Human') or piano there ('The Coldharbour Road'), occasionally embellished by a restrained brass break. The comparably rambunctious 'Watching Birds' and 'On the Rocks' meanwhile wisely give an edge to the sometimes overly mild tone of the record.
It's not the first time that an album of this kind has been crafted, but there's something special that draws you back time and time again to 'Beachcomber's Windowsill'. Maybe it's simply just a gorgeous little record.