by / November 9th, 2012 /

Autumn Owls – Between Buildings, Towards the Sea

 2/5 Rating


For a debut album, Between Buildings, Towards The Sea not only commits the cardinal sin of being both derivative and forgettable, but also sounds as if it could have been a coattail-riding hit seven years ago. There’s evidence of Autumn Owls as a melancholic Spoon or a more intimate iteration of Editors, and though it is clear that this Dublin trio are aiming for stately and elegiac, they often just sound musically disharmonious and lyrically self-obsessed.

Opener ‘Semaphores’ sets the tone rather emphatically on both counts. It unites a rough yet sparse indie template with repetitive, vague imagery of gliding birds and ruinous cities. The funeral-march pacing is only matched for monotony by Gary McFarlane’s laboured commitment to enunciation, and the initial run of songs are openly lack creativity in any way, shape or form. The injection of tempo on tracks such as ‘Spider’ and ‘The Arched Pines’ is very welcome and serves to highlight just how tedious the record is for long stretches.

The real crime are the lyrics, quickly falling into a bog of purposely hazy, cliched images on which the listener is supposed to project depth and meaning. Supposed to be poetic the words, in fact, say nothing of any substance. ‘Kiss The Wine’ is probably the only song on Between Buildings… that conveys McFarlane as the complex individual he clearly sees himself as; the cocktail of voyeurism, sordidness and regret stands out and works hard to leave an imprint.

There are promising moments, though. ‘The Great Atlantic Drift’ builds to a stirring climax and displays patience and maturity as yet unheard, while best distilling the band’s ample dark and sinister sides. ‘All The Lights In New York’ is uncharacteristically bright in tone, but ‘Borrowed Suit’ brings back memories of Interpol and Ziggy-era Bowie, which is never a bad thing. Those two closing tracks go half way to redeeming the album in an assuredly sisyphean effort, but naturally come up short. This isn’t a worthless album; there is enough here to suggest something greater than this largely mind-numbing coalition of deluded vanity and clumsy attempts at hero worship.

Listen: Spotify | Bandcamp | Soundcloud | Youtube

  • Jay

    Completely disagree! This review seems somewhat of a personal dig to me!

  • Stewart

    Sad day when the Daily Star gives an indie album a better review than State. Wonder if this guy knows the singer or something.

  • Niamh

    Puzzled by this review! Really love this album and all the other reviews I’ve read have given it a big thumbs up. What is State up to? Has anyone ever heard of this “journalist”? Nothing of his shows up on-line.

  • stringer

    Agree with some of the comments. the review seems a little personal to be objective. it comes across as if the reviewer has an issue with a member of the band. Derivative and lacking creativity are not what springs to mind

  • Curtis

    Cant quite fathom this review! I got into this band a few years back after hearing their stuff on the mcloone show.. A little frustrating having to wait so long for the album but have been totally blown away by the new stuff. Easily one of the best Irish debuts ever. Musically like nobody else and lyrically just amazing Very sad indeed when Irish music sites would rather take what appears like personal attacks on a band then support and promote something we should be genuinely proud of.

  • AOR

    This “review” appears to be a score settling mission against the singer. It reads more like a man scorned than a music review. The “journalist” makes references to imagery that is no where to be seen on the album ,which makes me question whether he has actually listened to the album. Disappointing from a so called music magazine.

  • Paula

    Oh deary me! sorry State but you got this one horribly wrong. really beautiful album, one I was hoping the Irish music press would be able to appreciate and get behind. This stuff is not meant to be put on once and digested. Like all great albums you must invest time and when you do that , you shall be rewarded dearly.

  • Justin

    A joke of a ‘review’. State you’re doing yourself no favours letting this amateur hack vent his spiel on your site. These type of ‘writers’ end up on blog sites with 10 views a year, still believing their opinion actually counts. If you let your standards slip like this the only way is down.

  • Donal

    Shocking review. I understand that’s its just one mans opinion at the end of the day but this is absolute nonsense. This is one of the finest records put out by an irish band in a long long time. These songs definitely are not for everyone but to accuse the band of being derivative is just plain crazy. This is a brave record, written by one of the best lyricists in the country. I had the pleasure of seeing them live a few weeks ago in the Grand Social and they were great. To criticise the album by saying things like “this is so seven years ago” makes me think the reviewer might be a 13 year old who got a dictionary for his birthday and now thinks he is a journalist!

  • Murph

    Bizarre review, Iv been listening to this album non stop for the last few weeks. Autumn Owls and “indie templates” could not be further apart. “cliched images and lyrically obsessed”!!! best thing about the band are the words. this seems like a really silly and petty dig. Pathetic.

  • PaulHayes

    seriously is this guy listening to the right album?! really love this album, savage music, powerful lyrics and beautifully produced. thats cliche now?

  • Beethopian

    Ha! Editors? Miles off…

  • Christine

    Laughably bad review. Bowie???Editors???!! sounds like this might be the guy’s first effort at reviewing something. This album is choice award stuff and every review Iv read so far have commended the band for its originality and songwriting.

  • kDamo

    Just to be clear: I haven’t heard the album and don’t know anyone involved here.
    (Apparently that needs to be stated to pre-empt personal accusations)

    BUT, I find it a bit sad that any less-than-great review of an Irish band is instantly met with accusations that it’s a personal attack or score-settling mission. It shows you how insular the mindset of those in the Irish music scene (incl. fans) is. To me, it doesn’t seem any more personal than a review of any big international band. The singer and the lyrics tend to be a focus for reviews, both good and bad. You can’t make the assumption that it’s personal because this is Ireland and everybody knows everybody. The scene will never develop properly with this kind of hysteria at every bad review.

    As I said, I don’t know the reviewer and haven’t heard the album, but can’t we just presume that he didn’t like it and simply said as much in his review? No?

  • Alanb

    I agree with Kdamo’s point, just cos the guy didnt like the album, it doesnt mean its some kind of vendetta, although having said that I totally disagree with the review. This is only my fave albums of the year so far.

  • Barry

    Iv always been interested in how long a reviewer spends with an album before they write. Iv been into these guys for a while and to be honest I was a little underwhelmed on the 1st few spins but something kept me listening and now I think its one of the best albums Iv heard this year. its not just a collection of songs but a considered and collective statement.

  • AP19

    I really like this album.I wouldn’t quite agree the review sounds like a personal attack but i can see why some would question how much listening was done by the reviewer. The last song sounds as much like interpol as S Club 7! The “bright tone” of the lights of NY ?!! its by far the darkest song on the album. Semaphores an indie template?!!! funeral pacing start? the 2nd song rocks as does Spare Room.

  • Daryl Keating

    Nice review George. Missed a good opportunity to call them Autumn Gowls though.

  • Phil

    This review pretty succinctly sums up what I hate about music journalism. What exactly is the point of a review like this? While I struggle to see the point of reviews at the best of times, I never understand reviews that are as offensively negative as this – are you trying to dissuade someone from listening to the band? Is this some ridiculous attempt at critiquing the music for the benefit of the band? Or worse still, is it just some vain attempt at attracting attention in the form of comments and online discussion? Well its succeeded in doing the latter.

    There are no right and wrong opinions when it comes to music. There is however, a line of what is considered appropriate in publishing and journalism. To make a statement in an album review to suggest that a band member clearly sees himself as being a ‘complex individual’ is ill judged, nasty and crosses a line in to being a personal attack on the band. How on earth could you make a statement like that based on listening to an album? Unless you know the person involved? – in which case, it’s a whole other level of inappropriate. Does this site even have an editor anymore? Like the album or loathe the album, this is one of the nastiest reviews I’ve read.

  • Niamh

    Hi everyone, I’ve figured out this review that has everybody so puzzled: the reviewer isn’t even a proper journalist. He’s just a kid recently out of college, looking for opportunities in journalism after writing for the school paper. Ha! Well done Slate – you’ve done wonders for your credibility here! He’s currently working in a kitchen and, wait for it….interning at a marketing agency. Dont take my word for it. The following is what he has written about himself on LinkedIn:

    What a joke of a magazine! The kid doing the review only looks about 19 years old, which makes his following comment all the more ridiculous as he would have been more interested in The Late Late Toy Show than “Ziggy-era Bowie”:

    “…sounds as if it could have been a coattail-riding hit seven years ago”

    At least this solves the mystery of why other reviews of the album give it a thumbs up.

    Slate = joke

  • Rónán

    By far one of the best releases I’ve heard in a long time. Very impressed with the production, great tunes, I’ve been playing it a lot since I picked it up. I really cant draw any parallels with what the reviewer is describing and the album itself.

    Shame this review was so off the mark really, hope nobody’s turned off from checking out the album as a result of the above shite.

  • Colin

    dont mean to jump on the bandwagon here, but I have to disagree with just about every word in this review. Immense album by a really great band. You can tell it took time and great work to create a debut so mature and artistic. Reminds me of “Asleep in the back” era Elbow.

  • Duffin

    Very disappointed to see such a well crafted and genuinely interesting Irish album panned in such a manner. This review is basically taking the piss out of a band who are trying to do something interesting and engaging, and how dare they, actually put emphasis on lyrics? Better just stick to songs in 4/4 about drinking and riding. I don’t agree with a word of this review, however, I don’t agree with any personal attacks either.

    So what if this reviewer is just out of college? And doing a marketing internship? There’s not many paying media jobs out there at the moment so I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to dismiss college graduates who contribute to any blog/magazine/zine/newspaper while having to work ‘day’ jobs to pay rent. I’ve read many a review from a full time music journalist that read like a scathing attack on a band/artist masquerading as an album review.

  • sarah_jane_wow

    Yeah, that Linkedin profile makes the kid seem like a real klutz. I’d be ashamed of some of the stuff on there…and I’m not referring to the culinary expertise.

  • mke

    Simply a case of trying too hard to impress his peers here I think. Poor young fella has a lot to learn.

    Great album. One of the best of the year.

  • McD

    this review is so far off the mark its almost funny. jesus state take a look at whats going out on your site! Just because a band does not subscribe to the usual Influences ( Arcade Fire, Fleet Foxes, Arctic Monkeys etc.. )the reviewer’s brain stops computing and he resorts to the most ill fitting description imaginable. If you love artists like Neutral Milk, Slint, Portishead, Galaxie 500, Joy Dvision and Echo and the Bunnymen you will appreciate this albums achievements .

  • Niamh

    2FM’s Best Irish Albums of 2012: Autumn Owls in at number 8. Shows what nonsense the above “review” is. Its a poor reflection on state.