Aberfeldy, as all you Scots out there will know, is a picturesque town near Perth that’s popular with the holidaymakers. It’s easy to see how the name became the choice for a quintet of Scottish musicians whose music has a sunny disposition and seems to share the fresh air of the place.
Seems like they’re tight with their money too because Young Forever has some pretty basic production values, though this is all to the good because it proves that some of the best music doesn’t need to drown in effects or have a 100-piece orchestra behind it. In fact, Summer’s Gone gets the one-fingered cheap keyboard option and makes a great track with a memorable chorus to boot.
Vocalist and composer Riley Briggs has an impressive falsetto. Comparisons with Belle And Sebastian are inevitable and to some extent well-deserved, since the melodies and lyrics of this band are a treat. Lyrically Tie One On is the best, its couplets prompting a wry smile – “I always used to have someone to come home to” and “the love we had that once was cherished has perished”. A lovelorn theme pervades the album, and single Vegetarian Restaurant notes: “I don’t cry a lot it’s true, but when I do I do it over you.”
Aberfeldy are Edinburgh to Belle And Sebastian’s Glasgow, but like the latter they have a refreshing approach to harmony and instrumentation, weaving violin and trombone passages throughout the music. Some of the violin effects are exquisite, with harmonics and pizzicato providing some brilliant effects. Even the glockenspiel is beguiling in the opening to Surly Girl. In all the songs there exists plenty of open air charm, best illustrated in the opening to Young Forever, ironically one of the few songs to lose its way.
The album as a whole is strangely uplifting, despite the subject matter dwelling on lost love. Aberfeldy’s humour is always close to the surface, and nowhere more so than Heliopolis By Night with its hilarious alien voices. The soft shuffle of Our Of Love closes the album on a softly reflective nocturnal note.
A criticism of the album might be that it’s too similar throughout, but that is to not listen closely enough. It’s true that a lot of the songs are texturally similar, but the variety and subtle use of electronics distinguishes each song in its own right. My main jibe is with the album cover – what is the significance of mating lions?!
To sum up then – Young Forever is equal parts easy going, reflective, gentle and funny, and is a little gem at just over half an hour. Packed with melodies to die for, it offers glimpses of huge potential, and would seem to indicate Rough Trade are on to another winner.