The Slow Show are the kind of band that stop you in your tracks and make you listen. They have a unique sound and quality to them for a British act, and can have a profound effect that can cause unexpected moments of mass emotion, or even moments of sudden action, such as booking them to headline a gig moments after hearing them for the very first time (…guilty!)
This five-piece from Manchester have just released their second EP Brother, the follow-up to their exquisite 2011 debut, Midnight Waltz. Though not typically British sounding – due to their obvious Americana, US folk and country influences, made particularly evident by Rob Goodwin’s deep and dark vocals – they do hold onto their Northern roots throughout their songs. Wilco and The National are the first names that come to mind…but if you dig a little deeper, the more local inspiration of Richard Hawley and Elbow can be heard, which adds a warm feeling of familiarity and affinity to them.
Brother is certainly a step in the right direction for The Slow Show. It has a grander sound, Goodwin’s vocals are deeper yet stronger, and the whole record sounds even better produced than their first effort…which was a master class in how to make a debut EP.
Title-track and album opener Brother is a slow affair, opening with lightly pressed keys and a gorgeous string arrangement. Echoing childhood memories and a desire to return to ‘football fields and backyard alleyways’, Goodwin recalls what sounds like a personal loss and is a particularly intense start to the EP. However, one cannot help but wonder if the entire record is going to be as somber and emotional throughout.
Dirty Little Secret – the irresistible second track on the record – is quick to answer this query with a luscious stringed opening and further beautiful piano-playing. With the addition of a female vocal for the chorus and the stunning crescendo, there is a lighter and maybe even playful sound to the track, despite Goodwin’s ever-present gloomy vocals, which one slowly becomes used to and accepts after the first listen or two.
God Only Knows is another slow and sleepy track, but is the most representative of the the Elbow and Hawley influences, with its bluesy guitar and softly-tapped drums; whilst the addition of horns adds extra atmosphere to the late-night song. Goodbye Rose then brings the record to an emotional close, with further hints of regret and loss from Goodwin, whilst the band carry the track lightly and unobtrusively to shore.
Brother certainly isn’t a record that can be played at any occasion, and is possibly one best heard late at night, winding down the hours with either a loved one, or a stiff drink… However, once you’re in the right frame of mind for this EP, or at least aware that it’s not going to be the most uptempo of records, you can really enjoy the quality of these engaging, impressive and beautifully produced couple of tracks. It comes as no surprise that they are becoming firm favourites of Radio 2, for example, and are surely destined to become household names in the coming months.