Falling Off Maps - A Seaside Town in Winter (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
SOMETIMES the softly-softly approach to songwriting can feel a little too laboured, especially if you extend an album to 15 songs.
Nottingham indie quintet Falling Off Maps have fallen into that trap with their debut, A Seaside Town in Winter, a suitably autumnal sounding collection of tracks that hit occasional highs, but which struggle to come together as a satisfying whole.
Comfortably existing in the category marked haunting, A Seaside Town in Winter adopts a self-consciously Radiohead vibe, while also incorporating elements of Death Cab For Cutie and Bon Iver. But it struggles to rub shoulders with most of those for a lot of the time.
The problem is perhaps best exemplified in album closer, Visiting Hours, which plods towards its epic finale, with Dave Wright’s falsetto urging the listener to “come on, come on” as a piano slowly becomes more stirring and backed by atmospheric drums. But given that they leave this to the six minute mark (and the track fades after seven), it almost feels like too little, too late. And there are a lot of songs that take that approach.
Album opener You Are Here, for instance, has a haunted harmony to usher in the listener, as well as some subtle atmospheric electronics, but it’s again a little too deliberate to really grab you. And the album needs those grab you moments.
Ironically, former single The Redeemer (an IndieLondon record of the week) would have been a better starting point. Built around a fragile acoustic guitar lick and a beautifully haunting set of vocals fro Wright, this is thoughtful, reflective and utterly captivating.
What’s more, it also boasts an insistent back-beat that gives it an energy to offset its darker elements, while embodying favourable Radiohead comparisons.
Honest, another former IndieLondon favourite, also delivers the good and is an emotionally compelling tale of longing and reaching out. The track really comes alive after the first chorus, too, once the intricate instrumentals become even more layered.
But Through The Frost then delivers another of those moments that never really ignites in spite of some beautiful components and this becomes more of the norm for the album, even during some of its more lively offerings (All My Fears).
Idiot, to its credit, works because of its strikingly melancholy central guitar riff and fragile vocal delivery, while Down Past The Boatyard similarly employs a noteable keyboard melody and drum loop, as well as another of those oh-so distinct Radiohead comparisons.
But it’s a long journey and A Seaside Town in Winter is, like its name suggests, an album capable of delivering some spectacular moments (think giant waves battering the shore), yet one to approach with caution, if at all.
Download picks: The Redeemer, Honest, Idiot, Down Past The Boatyard