It’s only been a year since Broken Records’ debut Until The Earth Begins To Part and they’re already back with a new album. If there was a criticism to be levelled at Until The Earth Begins To Part, it was that the sheer quantity of instruments and band members involved clogged their vision – and their arrangements.
But this time around, the song structures are more carefully thought out, allowing nuances and atmospheres to develop naturally. The Celtic folk that coloured much of their previous work is no longer as prevalent either. There’s still a folk tinge to proceedings naturally, but it’s far more gothic and dour than before.
Kicking off with A Leaving Song, it’s clear that sincerity is utterly vital to Broken Records. There’s a soul to Jamie Sutherland’s vocals that conveys a sense of authority and realism that seems lacking in any number of other bands that attempt to construct an illusory wall of angst around them. Sutherland’s smouldering croon is soon interrupted by his band as they hurtle headlong into the first climax of many, Most bands would wait before unleashing the killer punch, but as with so much of Let Me Come Home, Broken Records are in no mood for niceties and opt to explode into endless payoffs that never seem to lose their impact.
Following in a similar vein is Modern Worksong which races along courtesy of militaristic drums and a relentlessly rolling piano figure. “Won’t you give me a reason to sing?” pleads Sutherland, his vocals impassioned and leaning towards hysteria as the song builds.
His reason to sing becomes evident in the tales that provide Let Me Come Home’s loose theme. Love, it would seem, is a dirty, painful and thoroughly unpleasant part of life, yet it is a necessity. The duet of Dia Dos Namorados sums this up succinctly, with its funereal pace a sombre tones. Sparrow And The Workshop‘s Jill O’Sullivan mirrors Sutherland’s sentiments in a haunting fashion. “Bury me beneath the tides, in the shallow surf, in the filth and grime” they sing, sounding not unlike something from Nick Cave‘s Murder Ballads. The central point here being that love is murder.
It’s not all dour and introspective though. The likes of A Darkness Rises Up find the band in almost rock mode as they up the tempo and indulge in an infectious chorus that isn’t a million miles away from the emotive grandeur of The National. You Know You’re Dead explores similar territory. Initially stripped back to bass and drums, it builds elegantly towards a heavenly chorus with Sutherland exploring his range fully.
The Celtic influences return briefly for The Cracks In The Wall as the band back down from the rush of You Know You’re Dead. It’s heartbreaking stuff, but a finely judged climax that recalls the emotions released by Bruce Springsteen‘s Thunder Road.
Wrapping things up with Home, a song of aching regret and endless blame, this is Sutherland’s song from beginning to end. No matter how elegant the drone of the cello and the wisps of violin, his impassioned vocal steals the show.
Let Me Come Home is a very straight faced record, yet for all of its apparently bleak subject matter; it is an album that revels in the restorative healing power of music and song. It is also beautifully written and performed and deserves to be up there with this year’s best.