Review Summary: Sprawling, orchestral and Scottish; beautiful and crafted indie-rock that hints at future greatness.
If there's an accent in music which lends itself to sounding passionate or emotional, there's no doubt it's a Scottish one. You can see it in a range of pop artists that have enjoyed success over the last decade, from Paolo Nutini's personable mumbles to the heartfelt fragile pipes of Frightened Rabbit's Scott Hutchison, the latter serving as an appropriate point of comparison for the delivery of frontman Jamie Sutherland. It would be entirely inaccurate to imply much more than a geographical similarity exists between the two bands, though, since Broken Records are a notably different proposition to the majority of their countrymen. The Edinburgh-based seven-piece's intentions are perfectly clear as soon as their debut record's opener begins; violins, pianos and grandiose arrangements form the foundations of a sprawling, massive indie-rock album. Broken Records have been hyped as the UK's Arcade Fire, and that comparison is remarkably astute.
Still, there are differences. Until The Earth Begins To Part feels softer, smoother-edged than anything produced the other side of the Atlantic; its production is geared towards an epic sound which at times calls to mind a more accessible Godspeed You! Black Emperor with the obvious inclusion of Sutherland's fragile vocals. Also noteworthy is the occasional influence of Celtic folk on the album's more rocky numbers like Eilert Loevborg and A Good Reason; the violin lines, especially, are diverse enough to determine multiple atmospheres, from the building tension of Nearly Home to the beautifully apocalyptic Wolves. In Earth, Broken Records have deliberately brought about enough changes in tempo and aesthetic to suggest repeat listens are not only plausible, but wholly necessary to appreciate the enormous soundcapes on offer.
Even when Earth slows down or strips itself to just a piano, like on the gorgeous A Promise, it manages to feel important and purposeful; there are political and social messages all over the lyrics of tracks like If The News Makes You Sad, Don't Watch It, but the sound in general doesn't tend towards optimism or pessimism more than it does towards beauty
. There's an uplifting quality to the majority of Broken Records' breakthrough LP which marches with triumphant confidence at all times, best illustrated by the growing, almost-ceremonial climax to A Promise. Sometimes, the band try a bit too hard to be epic, and there's no doubt that Earth is an album which takes itself desperately serious for the entirety of its 40-minute runtime. Despite the occasional pretentiousness, though, it never crosses the line into sounding pompous or ridiculous, and despite the appeals to operatic climaxes, the band still sound strangely grounded.
Until The Earth Begins To Part hints at brilliant things to come from its creators - it's obvious that they take influence
from Arcade Fire, but they take it in a more compelling and comprehensive direction. Broken Records aren't into musical jolts or doing things by halves; they craft shamelessly grand pop songs with punch, melodic sensibility and permanently-building tension, and they know how to bring about a climax, too. Nothing sounds apathetic or half-assed, and while that occasionally lends itself to over-extravagance, essentially it's what holds this impressive and euphoric debut record together. From start to finish, there's not a single word that comes out of Sutherland's mouth that's not positively dripping with emotion and sincerity, so if you like your rock music massive, orchestral or just damn beautiful, you shouldn't let an album like this one pass you by.
"Watch the TV, tell me what you see - any hope in love, or realised dreams? That's what I wanna see; no more pain, no more tears, no more grief."