Heirs by And So I Watch You From Afar – Review
If you read the Facebook bio for And So I Watch You From Afar, it’s ten words that perfectly sum up the band: “greedily trying to fit everything we love into one song”. It may sound a bit ludicrous or even a little bit exaggerated, but if you’ve ever listened to this awesome foursome, you will realise that it makes perfect sense, it marks their untiring working ethic and passion to create sounds that truly reflect their musical passions, as musicians and as a band, in the most honest and meaningful way possible.
Their fourth album, Heirs, sees the culmination of this unwavering desire to innovate; having tirelessly toured the globe in recent years, they still managed to painstakingly create an album where “the central theme is about the inheritance of ideas. In that we’re all heirs to other people’s passion, which in turn inspires ourselves.” It’s a thought process we can all relate to at some point or another in our lives, this air of expectation being transformed into a personal aspiration. The group have clearly found a common locus on which they could not only relate to each other as a band but also use their music to speak to their fans on a much deeper level. “It’s called Heirs as a tribute to a lot of new people who came into all our lives during the writing and recording of the album — lots of nephews and Johnny had a daughter, Eisa,” Friers explains. “It seems like the songs soaked up all those feelings we had during the writing. Because making the album was such an intentionally intense and full time experience none of us where listening to much other music or even experiencing much else outside of it. So, it feels like a very pure representation of what happens when these four people decide to make music together. It was a very intense time and the record has been shaped by that.” Account for the fact that this ten track album is the offspring of thirty potential tracks that were written in prolific isolation in the space of six months in the band’s Belfast home, it’s obvious that this fourth offering was earmarked to be something extraordinary. Guitarist Rory Friers admitted that Heirs has been in the making as far back as 2013, “We would be recording demons in our hotel room, backstage and we would even hire out rehearsal rooms during days off”. This steely determination, combined with the arrival of new guitarist Niall Kennedy, who joined as a touring member back in 2012, and half a year’s break from touring, every waking moment was poured into this album, all in the hopes of keeping just a handful of tracks that would express the band in the sincerest way possible. It marks an intense concentration of ambitions and adventurous abandon that seeks to delve deep into the heart of artistic expression, reshape it, and present it as a significant offering to their fans in Ireland and throughout the world.
The opening track ‘Run Home’ is a flurrying burst of electric guitar and an unwavering chant of the song title repeatedly, as the song races towards the song’s explosive conclusion. It’s a symphony of riffs and head banging drums that earmarks this track as a sign of great things to come from the album. There’s a brief moment of release, almost falling to a hush of celestial guitar playing, the gentle pulsing of guitar soon climbs into And So I Watch You From Afar’s usual hammer-on-guitar sound.
‘These Secret Kings I Know’ follows in quick succession with the winning formulation of rattling guitar and chanting choruses, there’s these brief moments of reprieve where the track holds a sort of hopeful quality before evolving in this sort of reverb-drenched howls and screeching guitar vibrating throughout.
A fitting title, to say the least, ‘Wasps’ has a sudden, brief sting of sound to it, fuelled by the murmuring guitar riffs that perfectly replicate buzzing, the track lingers for just a few moments and ends with an impromptu close. The way in which the band have managed to vary their sound whilst still holding a unifying thread throughout their album is something to be admired, they haven’t bombarded the album with all thirty potential tracks, the whittling down has resulted in this offering of beautifully harmonised sounds, that complement each other though.
‘A Beacon, A Compass, An Anchor’ is more lingering in its opening, with a slow, underlying bubble, it’s a track that manages to contain pulsing 3/4-time driving rhythm section alongside gently muted, scraped guitars, it is both the most unusual amalgamation of sounds and efforts, yet works so effectively.
Admittedly, ‘Fucking Lifer’ was one of my favourite tracks on the album, with this sort of uplifting combination of vocals and foot-tapping beat, it reminds me of Arcade Fire’s ‘Wake Up’, to a degree, but with much more grit and raw, unpolished talent.
The title track of the album is the most impressive of all though, it is seven and a half minutes of a musical journey, a progression of sound with an adventurous and explorative undertone to it, the time signature is rather complex, and when tied in with the half-time drums, it has this sort of climbing element to it. Everything about this album seems to converge in this infectious symphony of noise, beautifully executed in a way that seems graceful and effortless rather than contrived.
Review by Elaine McDonald
ASIWYFA are playing the Olympia Theatre on June 19th.
Listen to Heirs, here: