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Iain Archer - Magnetic North

Iain Archer, Magnetic Fields

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

FORMER Reindeer Section and Snow Patrol guitarist Iain Archer continues his quest for solo greatness with the release of his second album, Magnetic North.

The inspiration for the long-player came from American albums such as The Shins’ Chutes Too Narrow and the latest offerings from The Flaming Lips and Bright Eyes.

“This record let me be playful again,” he remarks. “I wasn’t holding really tight to every last drop of decision, but just let things happen, the way Neil Young does.”

That sense of playfulness is evident on early album tracks such as Minus Ten and When It Kicks In – both of which feature lively guitar work and a more vibrant vocal style.

Unfortunately, not all of the album follows the same path and there are several acoustic guitar-driven ballads that fail to make as notable an impression given the current revival of that sort of thing.

That said, Magnetic North remains an impressive album that succeeds more than it fails.

When It Kicks In is a particularly rousing effort, teeming with classic American alt-rock values and a really rocking guitar solo that brings out the very best in Archer’s cracking ability (he did, of course, contribute memorably to Snow Patrol’s Run).

Soleil is another lively offering even though the vocals sound a little more achy and pained (much in the same way as Thom Yorke’s) – or at least until the falsetto chorus!

And Long Jump contains some nicely layered riffs and a haunting set of vocals that work well in tandem with each other.

Of the slower stuff, the piano-drenched Arriero emerges as supremely atmospherhic, stripped back and melancholy – Archer’s vocals again at their most aching and powerful.

While the same sort of values can be attached to Frozen Northern Shores, a track that succeeds in transporting you to the same sort of chilly coastline that Archer sings about.

But there is a creeping tendency to overplay this style of songwriting and on tracks such as Everything I’ve Got the effect is not as passionate or as emotional as Archer was doubtless intending – rather it’s laboured and could do with an injection of pace.

As a follow-up to his debut album Flood The Tanks, however, Magnetic North is, like its creator suggests, more playful and a little more hopeful in spite of some melancholy departures.

It’s well worth checking out, especially if you’ve been a fan of Archer’s work in other forms in the past.

Track listing:

  1. Canal Song (End Of Sentence)
  2. Minus Ten
  3. When It Kicks In
  4. Collect Yourself
  5. Soleil
  6. Everything I’ve Got
  7. Arriero
  8. Frozen Northern Shores
  9. Long Jump
  10. Luke’s Point
  11. Life Boat