Stornoway: Beachcomber’s Windowsill

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Stornoway
Beachcomber’s Windowsill
(4AD)

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Stornoway’s sound is vaguely reminiscent of Belle & Sebastian. It fits in well among a crowd of like-minded imitators of inoffensive, soft-sung indie folk, which is to say, Stornoway offers little in terms of innovation or of a resounding quality that defines them.

An erudite band comprised of British natives who got together while studying subjects like ornithology and Russian translation at Oxford, Stornoway is safely definable as “Indie Folk.” (Even their charmingly quaint university degrees earn the title.)

On their new album, Beachcomber’s Windowsill, vaguely hymnal melodies blend with perfunctorily plucked banjos and gentle guitar strums. The songs are pleasant, appropriate background music, just fine for a shuffling playlist of folksy tunes. But alone, the album stands on unremarkable legs.

Windowsill does have its moments though. “The Coldharbour Road” exemplifies uncontrived metaphors of heartache with the lyrics: “I am a small town, you are a tornado/And down the high street you tear into me / Bring down the power lines and you twist the heart right out of me/Leaving my outskirts devastated.”  The song “On the Rocks” hints at a trenchant post-rock sound, with complex, restrained layers that subtly crescendo—but it’s an exception to the rule, dormant through most of the album.

Stornoway’s debut album has its charm and intrigue, but falls short in distinguishing itself in an overflowing genre. Beachcomber’s Windowsill plays nice with similar styles for those looking to accumulate more of the same.  But if you’re looking for something remarkable, move along.

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