Album Review: Dry The River – Alarms In The Heart

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Alarms In The Heart is the second release by Dry The River, the London-based band. In the making of the album, Will Harvey (violin, viola, mandolin and keys) left to pursue other ideas but fortunately not until after he had already laid down his tracks on the album. What is striking about this band is their ability to make music that is hard to tag as belonging to a particular period of time, definitely a good thing.

To record the album the band decided to go to Iceland for a change of scenery. Lead singer and guitarist Peter Liddle says, “Recording in Iceland was about shutting ourselves off from our daily lives and our heavy touring to schedule to rediscover what Dry The River means to us.”

The song Everlasting Light, my personal favourite on the record, was the first track to spark work on the new album. It starts with a crunchy guitar sound before the bizarre lines, “I was lying on the floor of the playground. You were chasing off a kid with a greyhound. I remember thinking you’re the coolest girl I know”. Liddle sings “I had my reasons at the time”, perhaps an attempt to explain the reasons why he and the band took some time before finding the direction for their second release.

The title track commences the album in a calm manner with an organ before Liddle’s distinctive vocals enter as he sings about loss. The chorus is decidedly much more upbeat musically even if the lyrics warn of not listening to “alarms in the heart”. Hidden Hand rushes in with a wonderfully rich guitar riff. The line “When I was young and not a cynic” a striking line that portrays the misfortune that age has on us. A pulsing chorus with the line “The garden’s overgrown” again portrays this idea of the loss of wonder and innocence.

Scottish singer Emma Pollack (The Delgados) features on Roman Candle to add a different element to the band’s sound and an interesting harmony to Liddle’s in a melancholic brooding but beautiful song. It is fitting that Med School immediately picks things back up again. Thematically, it is an innocent portrayal of the idolisation of a woman which blocks the words that this geek can say but he still imagines himself getting laid in the back of the car and subsequently removing this spell that she has on him.

Gethsemane is a carefully crafted song that really gives Liddle’s vocals the space that he doesn’t always get. Vessel conveys the frustration most of us feel at some times when a person becomes like a leech that is hard to remove  – “I don’t want to be your vessel anymore, didn’t want to be your vessel anyway”. The last song is a lengthy one. At 11:04 it is by far that longest on the album and is an indulgent move by the band. The middle of the song consists of solely ambient sounds that can surely be attributed to the barren Icelandic landscape that they placed themselves in. Vocals and guitar are eventually reintroduced after a long break to bring the album to an unsettling end.

Alarms In The Heart is a strong release that is sure to satisfy the band’s fan base without offering anything strikingly different from their debut album Shallow Bed. “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it” seems to be the idea here and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.

Phil Soanes