I am Kloot – Sky at night
The Skinny: “Some things were made for you to sit and listen to, in a particular order. Some stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. Sit down and listen to ‘Sky at Night’. It has a story to tell you.” – Frank Cotrell Boyce’s Open Letter, published at I am Kloot‘s website.
The review proper: It’s a new stage for I am Kloot (Mercury nominated! Yeah!) and this album is fantastic. No way to beat around the bush. The sound of I am Kloot gets a little re-working (more of a vitamin injection), but never loses it’s identity. Now, lyrics-wise, it’s business as usual, it’s salt of the earth stuff. Urban malaise, yearning, middle age concerns and the usual enlightening pub conversation (we all have been there. Or will be in a few hours).
‘Northern skies‘ sets the stage, a mild, folksy ditty that moves gently around, hand in hand with ‘To the brink’, the ugly ducking that still flexes a good musical muscle. Then comes ‘Fingerprints’, a relaxed song with some penchant for overdramatic rhythm changes that never jarrs, just fits it nicely and flows. Andy Hargreaves’ drumming is amazing and probably carries this song to places it didn’t want to go (chamber pop!). The orchestral coda at the end feels like getting chastised by the schoolmaster after a few cheeky jokes have landed you in trouble.
‘Lately‘ is a bit of a downer, but don’t worry, it’s all setting the stage for the following. The album has warned you to what’s coming. First salvo is shot and it’s a song called ‘I still do’. Words fail me on how sad this song is. The nostalgia about seeing things through the eyes of a child and, in a way, admiting that you still are like that, watching things with the eyes of a child, possibly day-dreaming. “When I was a child / I looked up at the sky / Thought I saw you and I / In the clouds, passing by“.
‘The Moon is a blind eye‘ is majestic, although equally heartwrenching. The gorgeous musical arrangement is dream-like, never too bombastic, just the right amount of classical instruments that, when paired with Peter Jobson’s organ playing and John Bramwell’s raspy voice delivery, make it a wonderful song. Even in all its grandiosity, there’s a sadness seeping through the cracks.
Sky at night is teeming with slow tempos and the sound of being adrift in introspection. ‘It’s just the night‘ feels like the dirge in your head when you walk back home alone after a night out, probably stopping a moment to let your mind wander, maybe something caught your eye. The night, the stars, a random, lonely tree in a dark street, where light seeps through. And then you sigh and keep walking back home.
If there is something that is preventing me from declaring my eternal love to Sky at night is the reworking of ‘Proof’. It’s problematic for me to be unbiased as I’m quite fond from the original version (from album number deux, I am Kloot) and adding it to this album is taking away from another song that could’ve fitted here. That was my initial, knee-jerk reaction.
But, on the other hand, taking this whole album as a narrative (as Frank Cottrell Boyce says on the open letter included in I am Kloot‘s website), this reworking of ‘Proof‘ works wonders. After the stark, introspective ‘I still do’ and the Stella-in-my-belly-and-feet-on-the-air emotion from ‘The Moon is a blind eye‘, this version of ‘Proof‘ (or any version) is what is definitely needed; a happy moment accentuated by the crescendo at the end. Makes you want to smile like only Christopher Eccleston would (see video; old footage, reworked song).
‘Radiation‘, ah, “epic” is going to be the lazy-journalist’s de-rigueur adjective and since I fit on that category, well, this is the “epic” of Sky at night. The slow beginning, pastoral-like, grows and grows. It becomes a tsunami of sound (the wall of noise was three dBs ago) and after it crashes through the roof, it lets you rest. That exhaustion is soothed out by the sweetness of ‘Same shoes‘, the swansong of Sky at night.
There’s something about this album, like a feeling of return. If I could drop a pop culture reference, I’d say this is like “Whatever happened to the Likely Lads?”. Everyone is returning a few years later. Guy Garvey produced Kloot’s debut (2001’s Natural History) and he’s back. Christopher Eccleston was around on the gorgeous-but-unreleased video for ‘Proof’ and he’s back on a ‘Northern skies’. ‘Proof’ was a great track from the sophomore album (unreleased as a single, sadly) and now it’s back. Maybe it’s an album about re-kindling that flame with old friends, catching up with them and trying to convey this emotion through music is what Sky at night is all about.
Or it could just be a very well crafted album from a hard working band from Manchester, with all people involved actually caring of the final product they delivered. Check the link sections and giving it a spin. It’s worth your time.
About the author : Even if they don’t win the Mercury thingy, I personally think they are very well standing on their own feet and deserve a round of applause.