Embrace have always seemed to be dismissed, somewhat unfairly, as a band with unfulfilled potential. Despite their debut album, The Good Will Out, being crammed with uplifting, anthemic songs, it was widely perceived as something of a disappointment. Subsequent albums were a bit short on memorable tunes and the appearance of a ‘best of’ in 2002 seemed to signal the end of the Huddersfield band’s career.
Write off Danny McNamara and his band at your peril however. The aforementioned compilation, Fireworks, showcased McNamara’s way with a song and it was obvious that it wouldn’t be long before Embrace became a vital name to drop again. So it proves – Out Of Nothing is a wonderfully affecting album that is the band’s best to date.
Much of the album’s pre-release publicity has centred around Gravity, the song donated to them by Chris Martin of Coldplay. Rightly so, for Gravity is a marvellous song – taking the melancholic piano sound of Mr Martin’s lot and pushing it through the Embrace emotional mincer. The result is an uplifting masterpiece that would sound equally at home in a swaying stadium or a lovelorn teenager’s bedroom.
Yet there is so much more to enjoy here than just Coldplay’s castoffs. Opening track Ashes crashes in, grabs the listener by the scruff of the throat and refuses to let go. The huge singalong chorus is Embrace at their best – the sort of song you can imagine playing incredibly loud while driving very fast. Someday is in a similar vein, only even better. The optimistic lyrics sum up Embrace’s comeback and the feeling is one of valediction and vindication.
The band also added more subtlety here than in their previous work. Glorious Day is, as the title suggests, glorious – a gentle, low key ballad that sends a shiver down the spine. Looking As You Are works similar wonders, with McNamara’s often unjustly derided vocals sounding the best they’ve ever been.
Things rarely go awry throughout Out Of Nothing but Near Life is the only track that doesn’t quite work. It’s certainly atmospheric, but the experimental instrumentation and McNamara’s mumbled vocals make it sound like a song from a totally different album.
That’s the only misstep though, as numbers such as the desperately sad Keeping (“now she’s out of my reach and there forever”), the skyscraping Wish ‘Em All Away and especially the monumentally epic title track (with – honestly – shades of Sigur Ros in the introduction) are all songs that are fine additions to the Embrace canon.
With bands such as Keane, Longview and even Snow Patrol all described by the press as the ‘next Coldplay’, it’s ironic that Embrace should prove the group most deserving of the title. Out Of Nothing is the record they’ve been threatening to make for years – they’ll be no more talk of unfulfilled potential now, as this is undoubtedly one of the albums of the year.