Review: Stornoway – Beachcomber’s Windowsill

Stornoway is a burgh on the Isle of Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, with a population of approximately 9,000. Attractions included Stornoway Town Hall, The Lewis War Memorial, and The neo-gothic Lews Castle. The town also lends it’s name to a band destined for big things. Step on board the Hype-express, as Captain ALEXANDER BRITTON sets sail to give you the guided tour.

Stornoway – Beachcomber’s Windowsill
Release date : 24/05/2010

The BBC’s annual ‘Sound of…’ poll is the perfect tool for lazy music fans to appear relatively knowledgeable about the bands who will be garnering more attention over the course of the following year. This exercise in musical clairvoyance rarely throws up any surprises with many of the acts receiving their allotted 15 minutes before the turn of the year.  That said, Beachcomber’s Windowsill, the curiously titled debut album from nominees Stornoway, lends itself to a more enduring appreciation rather than flash in the pan success – because it is a beautiful, beautiful album.

Beginning with lead single ‘Zorbing’, complete with vocal harmonies reminiscent of Fleet Foxes, Beachcomber’s Windowsill is a summery, pop-folk masterpiece with delicate instrumentation complementing strong, heartfelt vocals.  This is instantly apparent in the aforementioned track, with a monotone bassline and Brian Briggs’ delicate voice giving way to a melodic slice of pop, complete with strings and brass for good measure.

The eleven tracks of Beachcomber’s Windowsill flow together seamlessly, with the gently whimsical lyrics suggesting hints of Belle and Sebastian, delightfully accompanied by an organic folk sound that can only come as a result of recording in bedrooms and garages rather than professional studios.

But Stornoway are not merely pretenders to the twee crown. Tracks such as ‘Fuel Up’ add another dimension to the album, with its gentle, acoustic chord progression and unimposing percussion demonstrating that they are capable of doing stripped down with as much ease and delight as heavily orchestrated pieces.

Beachcomber’s Windowsill is not an infectious album. Rather, its strength is in the fact it is subtly beautiful and completely uplifting throughout the course of the album, something which certainly requires more skill than writing a catchy eight note sequence. The sheer charm of this first album and its light, joyous songs will ensure that Stornoway’s 15 minutes last all summer long, if not longer.

By Alexander Britton