Considering that Turin Brakes have only ever had relatively minor mainstream success, it is quite remarkable that they are still going strong 16 years after longtime friends Olly Knights and Gale Paridjanian first decided to form the band. In fact, they have outlasted many other acts that came to prominence around the millennium and had more instant success than the duo and their fellow bandmates Rob Allum and Eddie Myer.
Part of the reason behind their staying power is their transition from hotly-tipped, next big things – Turin Brakes received a Mercury Prize nomination for their debut The Optimist LP way back in 2001 – to a space just on the outside of the mainstream. With the glare of the spotlight not quite so fierce, Knights and Paridjanian have been able to subtly adapt their sound to move with the times without straying too far from their origins.
This natural progression culminated in 2013’s well received sixth studio album, We Were Here, which was arguably their most complete record. It was not a particularly radical collection of songs – Turin Brakes’ comforting folk acoustic sound has never been particularly revolutionary, anyway – but We Were Here delivered when it came to melodies and had the perfect combination of familiarity and freshness.
It is no great surprise then that the band decided to return to the same legendary Rockfield recording studio in Wales where We Were Here was born to produce its successor, Lost Property. The result, once again, is an album that is unmistakably Turin Brakes, while also tweaking their formula slightly to create a collection of songs that make less of an instant impact compared to those that inhabited their sixth effort.
From the opening notes of 96 right through to the atmospheric closer Black Rabbit, there is something very cinematic and expansive about Lost Property. While 96 initially suggests more of the same with its infectious guitar hook, one that is reminiscent of their Optimist days, it gradually unwinds into a far more gradual pay-off. “Honey don’t start that again/ playing your Russian roulette,” sings Knights, in his distinctive tone.
The patient build up is a telling sign of a band confident in their direction and the opener is suitably backed by Keep Me Around, which relies on a distant clapped beat and elegant strings to make its mark. Each of the elements work to support each other, with no one instrument taking prominence, creating a beautifully understated track. The same goes for Brighter Than The Dark, where Turin Brakes’ more nuanced approach is in full effect.
However, while this cinematic direction is largely successful – the wistful Quiet Ones being another example of where it works – it must be said that the more expansive scope does occasionally drift too far off the beaten track. The title track is particularly forgetful, never reaching the moment where it gets out of first gear, whereas Save You is memorable for all the wrong reasons – namely being too overwrought with sentimentality for its own good.
Yet just as it feels as though Lost Property is losing its way with the scratchy acoustics of Martini, Turin Brakes’ pull it back with the closing duo of Hope We Make It and Black Rabbit. The latter, in particular, is the highlight of the record, with its dark underbelly giving Knights’ carefully delivered lyrics all the more meaning as the barely there guitar leaves a lasting impression.
It is a chilling conclusion to an intimate record that demonstrates the craftsmanship that has served Turin Brakes so well over almost two decades. With each new release, the band manage to bring something new to the table and Lost Property continues this track record. It may not have the instant listenability of We Were Here, and there are parts where it gets slightly bogged down but, in the end, it is another worthy addition to their catalogue.