Review Summary: Glasgow art student makes feet tap and libido rise.
After years of repeatedly stating that I did not enjoy most female fronted bands, I have been broken by one of the most fun and more interesting albums I have heard in years. Life Without Buildings
’ one and only studio release, Any Other City
, has lassoed my brain and forced me to smile in a time when my bank account is nonexistent and smokes cost way too much. We have been given fifty minutes of beautiful jangly guitars and smooth bass lines that lay the perfect foundation for Sue Thompkins’ style of singing, which is reminiscent of scat singing found in improvisational jazz.
There are vocalists that will fool you with the accents in which they sing. Britt Daniels (Spoon) sounds like, well, a Brit. Steve Mason (Scottish singer of The Beta Band) sounds like Beck Hansen, an American. On the other hand, there is Sue Thompkins. She has a thick Scottish delivery that is as almost indecipherable as it is lovely. Her vocals are short bursts of repeated, almost stuttered lyrics crafted on the whim, are mind blowing and very heartwarming at the same time. The former Glasgow School of Art student, along with her bandmates has made one of the most enjoyable imports of the last decade.
The vocals that I spoke of earlier are apparent within the first few seconds of the album’s opener. PS Exclusive
gives the listener a clear idea of what to expect from LWB
. The unorthodox manner of singing becomes much more noticeable in the second song, Let’s Get Out
, but does not get fully realized until the albums highlight, The Leanover
will be the only song that I describe in detail because of the fact that I find it to be completely gorgeous, musically and lyrically(?). The reason for the question mark there is because I do not know what she is saying for about 60% of the song, but the emotion is conveyed flawlessly. The climax of the song is a breathy culmination of unceasing singing and the words “I want to be with you.” Repeated until the music begins to fade and I am forced to listen to it again.
The rest of the album follows a similar pattern (not a bad thing), until the second great piece comes around. Sorrow
is major change in pace. It is slows the frantic speed of much of the other songs to a slow guitar riff not unlike that of The Rolling Stones Beast of Burden
. The lyrics become much more personal. It is the longest song on the record clocking in at almost seven minutes, but it never drags. This is what I can only assume is Thompkins’ pillow talk put to music. The recording is done in one take and flows like a phone conversation in which we here only one side. Beautiful.
Overall, this is a beautiful album that has highpoints, but also some very mediocre points. The music gets a little repetitive, but never boring. The true saving grace for this album is, once again, the vocals. Had anyone other than Sue Thompkins been the front woman of this band, I dare to say, it would not have been anywhere close to the end product that we receive. With the pent up sexual energy and some very unique vocals Any Other City
succeeds in being a fun listen, but does not have the lasting power it needs to be an album for the ages.