When frontman and lyricist Noah Villeneuve described Sanctuary Lines, Yard Arms’ latest EP, as “an exploration of combating nostalgia in the modern age”, he hit the nail on the head. The Bristol-based duo, made up of Villeneuve and long-time collaborator Billy Golding, have described their music as “transatlantic melancholic pop”, a succinct one-liner that accurately sums up their unique blend of shimmery indie pop with alt-rock anthems, reminiscent of The Cure, Death Cab For Cutie, or even Tears For Fears.
The romantically morose lyricism and observational melancholy of ‘Silicone Crowd’ is a perfect introduction to Yard Arms. Coupled with punchy instrumentals this track is a heart-on-your-sleeve indie bop that is rather haunting, really.
‘Mantra’, the opening track and first single, displays Yard Arms’ talent for storytelling, coupling reflective lyrics with stunning vocals. This ambient track’s rippling instrumentation is totally hypnotic, demonstrating a very polished sound, perhaps more developed than their earlier EPs, 2019’s A Glossary of Broken Humans & Beating Hearts and 2018’s Maiden.
The second single, ‘These Four Walls’, is a great example of Yard Arms’ versatility. Verging more towards their emo-rock roots, this track’s bittersweet lyrics with soaring vocals offers an observation on the human condition punctuated by melodic guitar solos and nostalgic alt-rock instrumentation.
‘Fables’, the closing track, is the EP highlight, symphonically overwhelming in its beauty and extraordinary in its timing. Capturing the essence of storytelling and legends that its title suggests, this track displays insightful lyrics and stripped-back instrumentals that build into a repeated refrain that would be right at home on the lips of a festival crowd.
In just four tracks, Yard Arms have managed to capture a real sense of nostalgia and bittersweet hope that is extraordinarily appropriate for a record released during lockdown. Their closing lyric, “when will we find our solace and our sanctuary lines?” is utterly heart-wrenching as we hear it sung by what sounds like a crowd of thousands. Yard Arms have, once again, proved their ability to mesh evocative rock with darkly romantic indie-pop, to roaring success.
Words by Ellen Knight