Album Review: If You Could Have It All Again // Low Island

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From their first few singles, it is clear that Low Island has an appetite for sophistication. The electronic quartet have manifested this sophistication into atmospheric pop that evokes the abstract concepts of art-rock and the reflective sentimentality of modern life.

Being from Oxford has been a blessing, with Radiohead’s Phil Selway heaping his praise on the band for channelling the art school spirit that his band propelled almost 30 years ago. Whilst music has changed a lot in that time, the same artistic identity has lived on in Oxford with Low Island becoming the new torchbearers. 

The band’s acclaim reaches further than Phil Selway. Peter Gabriel, the former face of prog rock pioneers Genesis, has offered his praise alongside 6 Music stalwarts Tom Robinson and Lauren Laverne. The praise has even landed them a spot on the FIFA 21 soundtrack.   

The band’s affection for sophisticated transient pop comes through on their debut outing If You Could Have it All Again. The album sees the band keen to make a good impression, but without the need to be too flamboyant in announcing themselves. The opener ‘Hey man,’ fuses a faint synthesiser evoking the start of Laurie Anderson’s ground-breaking single, ‘O Superman’ with its repetitive futuristic humming. The calm synth loops fade out halfway through the track with Felix Higginbottom’s aggressive drum chops taking their place, nodding to the experimental influences in the process.

On the second track, ‘What Do You Stand For’, the electro-indie sound is raw and aggressive, paying homage to contemporary acts such as the 1975 and Working Men’s Club as well as the likes of New Order and A Certain Ratio. The beat has a great intensity to it and is very danceable. 

The band’s lyrical content is just as interesting as their approach to electronic composition. The lyrics for ‘What Do You Stand For’ are an insightful commentary on social and political issues. In the opening verse, frontman Carlos Posada sings: 

“Here come the tedious messengers and the cynical seamsters // the money-eyed predators with bank rolled dress codes // and matching socks and gratuitous swearing that makes you feel young, even though you’re getting older. They take drugs on the weekend with dubious creditors // the cultural arbiters with hand-fisted metaphors.”

These lyrics may appear abstract or even a tad arrogant, but they convey a political allegory that is relevant in our current political climate of gross social inequality, youth disenfranchisement, and consumer capitalism. The song’s appeal craves an anti-establishment polemic, targeting those in authority.

The album reaches its peak on ‘I Do It For You’, a track which oozes sophistication that is packed in their sound. The influences take a different turn on this track with alternative acts swapped for art-pop including Glass Animals, Metronomy and Alt-J. The vibrant electronics are matched with an enticing riff that brings out an explosive amount of energy to the album. ‘Momentary’ has a different atmosphere to the rest of the album. The energy and clever segment of experimentation are left out and a sombre, more reflective tone is established. The track picks up some of the lost energy in the last part and brings in a much-needed uplift. 

The closing track, ‘What the Hell (are you gonna do now?)’ brilliantly ties up the album. The expansive track, timed just at over five-minutes, is a refreshing change from the three minute tracks that make up the bulk of the album. The track is pinned down with a crisp bassline, occupying a chilled-out a grove and ensures the album has a clean finish.

Overall, this is a fine debut release, showcasing the freshest take on well-crafted electro-pop and the endeavour of taking their sound to more experimental fringes. It is a journey that fulfils their artistic desires, giving Low Island the originality they deserve.           

Words by Lewis Oxley


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