Let’s get this clear right off the bat: This is a very, very good album.
From cathartic opener ‘Mother To A Flame’ right the way through to gentle closer ‘Half Light’, Memorial’s first full album provides a salving comfort to its listener, forcing them to stop and take stock of a wild and turbulent world. Take a breath.
But then, many knew that already. A lot of the tracks on Memorial’s self-titled debut have been released previously – including ‘Fake Moon’ which found its way onto Spotify’s ‘The Most Beautiful Songs In The World’ playlist and ‘Latchkey’ which has amassed 25 million downloads and about which Elton John said ‘I really love it,’ (Elton John said that – and he knows a thing or two about music) – but they are no less fresh for their inclusion here. Instead, the re-released tracks slip in seamlessly alongside the not-so-hidden gems of other album tracks. Including , but not limited to, the short-instrumental excellently named ‘Memorial by Memorial’ on their album Memorial (an unintentionally homage to Black Sabbath perhaps?)
A fine balance has been struck here between the songs and their arrangements – just enough has been added to give the songs some vigour and depth, but not too much so that the arrangement takes over. It is very difficult to get right – and many acoustic singer songwriters don’t get it right, especially on their first record – but Memorial have nailed it here.
In truth, that’s because Memorial’s beauty lies in the subversion of expectations. A reasonable description of the duo would be as follows: two ghostly vocalists, accompanied by softly strummed guitars and gentle arrangements, singing down-tempo ballads. Also, they’re called Memorial. Sounds a bit depressing. But it isn’t – not by a long chalk – this record is strangely uplifting and comforting. No, not strangely – unintentionally, maybe, but expected nonetheless.
Perhaps the reason is Memorial’s make up: two long-time friends Ollie Spalding and Jack Watts. Their music reflects their relationship – giving and taking from each other through weaving vocals reminiscent of Simon & Garfunkel (without the outrageous hair) – their songs are fragile, as friendships can sometimes be. Their songs are understanding, as friendships should be. Their songs tackle difficult emotions, but they are tackled together.
At its core, Memorial’s album is about friendship and the comfort it brings – and who better to sing about that than two long-time friends, doing what they love, together.