Little Fictions, the seventh studio album by English indie hit makers Elbow, is a gentle record that creates a lilting atmosphere through expressive percussion beats and string instruments. It is an album to be listened to in its entirety, rather than playing a single song. It’s a cinematic album, one that is sure to make the listener feel like they are walking through their own soundtrack.
The album kicks off with ‘Magnificent (She Says)’, which almost acts as a symphony for the album. The production on Little Fictions verges on excellent, which stands at odds with the band’s attempts to retain a DIY quality to the sound with strained vocals that seem to be putting on a front to sound live, such as on ‘Gentle Storm,’ an off-kilter piece that begs the listener to fall in love with the singer. Perhaps after twenty years making music, Elbow are struggling with the concept that well-made music can still be considered alternative.
The British indie band’s sound is a musical institution, but it feels somewhat manufactured on this release. ‘Trust the Sun’ matches the Briticisms of Guy Garvey’s voice with deeply soft bass lines – it’s beautifully put together, but it does feel like the band are earnestly shouting that they are just like all the other British bands who might not have the budget for a studio album.
It’s when Elbow doesn’t insist on sounding like an alternative band that the best songs emerge – ‘Head for Disco’ is a fun tune with lines about running away together in a fantasy where Garvey’s other half can indulge in being “perverted old timers/I’ll feed you one liners.”
There’s earnestness to the album that is completely at odds with the band’s career. Elbow are a successful band with a great career, and this is a good album. The instrumentals are superb, it’s a pleasure to listen to Garvey’s vocal tones – but acts of false authenticity, such as a perfect fade-out in ‘Kindling’ to the band discussing how the song sounded as if the microphone was accidentally left on undermine the band.