Album Reviews

Aberfeldy – Do Whatever Turns You On

(Rough Trade) UK release date: 3 July 2006

On their first album Young Forever Aberfeldy secured favourable comparisons with Belle and Sebastian, thanks in part to a charming and low resolution approach to production. Indeed it often sounded as if singer Riley Briggs was backed by a one touch keyboard, an approach that allowed the quality and subtle humour of his songs to shine through.

Now it’s second album time, and the band have boosted their sound somewhat without compromising their identity. Vocal duties remain the same, with Briggs’ unaffected style perfectly complemented by the deadpan Sarah McFadyen and Ruth Barrie.

McFadyen’s subtle fiddle contributions are a highlight of the wistful opening song, while Barrie’s keyboards provide the dressing that lifts these songs to a higher level. A close listen to Hypnotised, for instance, reveals all sorts of light motifs going on in the background, yet the overall picture somehow remains deceptively simple.

The band indulge a hitherto unexplored love of 80s dancefloor music in Uptight, whose chorus of “might as well dance all night” is a potential hands in the air moment, while in complete contrast There You Go is a tender song that floats on the back of some gorgeous backing vocals. Poetry, meanwhile, suddenly blasts into a distorted guitar passage, something of a shock after the intricacy of the verse. Such shifts between textures strengthen the impact of Aberfeldy’s songs, without sounding like the effects have been contrived.

Lyrically the outlook is as refreshingly direct as it was on Young Forever. “Don’t you know this city can leave me cold, everybody’s so determined to be bought and sold” sings Briggs on Uptight. “You never thought I’d stoop so low, but there are things that you don’t know” says All True Trendies, rather more ominously. This song hints at darker overtones within the band, and these lend a bittersweet air to many of Aberfeldy’s compositions. It suits them.

The weakness for handclaps again gets the better of Briggs on 1970s, apunchy set of observations where dress sense is the least of the subject’s crimes. Later on the album weakens a little, melodic inspiration spread a little more thinly with the awkward lead of Never Give Up, the less comfortable bluster of Let Down. Sandwiched in between, the title track goes back to basics and sounds all the better for it.

These are small quibbles though, particularly in a record where the concise songs are ideally structured and never outstay their welcome. “Are you happy? That depends on whatever turns you on” sings Briggs. Well, give this a listen and you’ll be happy – so by rights, you’ll be turned on also.

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More on Aberfeldy
Aberfeldy – Somewhere To Jump From
Aberfeldy – Do Whatever Turns You On
Aberfeldy – Young Forever