Review Summary: These Blood Red Shoes are "Cold" "Down Here In The Dark".
Whether out of laziness or Trans-Atlantic parochialism, English boy-girl duo Blood Red Shoes have previously been compared to the likes of The White Stripes and The Kills. A more fitting comparison would be fellow Brits The Subways and The Joy Formidable, with the Brighton pair not quite as poppy as the former, nor as experimental as the latter. Granted, there were clear signs of progression into something altogether a little more moody and adventurous on their solid second full-length release ‘Fire Like This’, but it ultimately felt a little too scripted, with the title of highlight lead single ‘Light It Up’ probably giving away more than it intended. Third time around on ‘In Time To Voices’, however, and the song titles say even more: ‘Cold’, ‘Two Dead Minutes’, 'The Silence and the Drones’, ‘Night Light’ and ‘Down Here In The Dark’. “Dark” indeed.
An all-encompassing opener, the title track here is perfectly placed. Guitarist Laura-Mary Carter’s voice sounds simultaneously haunting and ominous, while her layered backing vocals add a nice subdued harmony. The outfit’s usual quiet-loud dynamics are once more on display, but maturity and natural growth mean that they feel more natural, even when the predictably raucous chorus appears. In an effective showcase for the duo’s much-vaunted boy-girl vocals, drummer Steven Ansell takes the lead on the following ‘Lost Kids’, before the two superbly trade off against each other on lead single ‘Cold’. It is here where Blood Red Shoes get the balance of atmosphere and hooks just right, with fuzzy, distorted guitar and rollicking drum rolls beautifully meshing with catchy melodies and anthemic vocals. From there onwards though, ‘In Time To Voices’ morphs into a completely different beast...
Despite containing instruments as varied as synths and acoustic guitar, the three track stretch which makes up the album’s second quarter is Blood Red Shoes at their most ambitious. Best described as “icy”, these slow-burning – if not lengthy - ballads are oddly captivating in a chilling manner, even if the band do not exactly excel when the pace is languid and the music sparse. Co-producing with Mike Crossey (Foals, Arctic Monkeys), the duo expertly mix and layer both the instrumental and vocal work, a fact which pays dividends on the LP's second half. The closing trio of tunes especially benefit by enabling the labyrinth of understated melodies and harmonies to gradually reveal themselves, and give the album a satisfying growth factor. Furthermore, on closer ‘7 Years’, the way in which Carter’s backing vocals add harmony in much the same manner as on the opener, gives ‘In Time To Voices’ a nice feel of a cohesive voyage.
“So what is the issue” you may all be asking? Well, there is unfortunately still a general feeling that all of the ingredients do not come together often enough on ‘In Time To Voices’. That aforementioned balance when speaking of ‘Cold’ only surfaces sporadically, with hooks occasionally falling a little too flat and placing an over-reliance on insistent repetition to get the job done. Conversely, few of the darker, more experimental songs are individually memorable, more playing their role for the greater good of the bigger picture. It ultimately leaves this album as a contradictory conundrum... It is more than an admirable attempt at growth, since it's expansively fuller sound IS growth. And yet, one cannot help but get the feeling that Blood Red Shoes are still capable of much better. We can only hope that 'In Time To Voices' is a stepping stone and not the final destination.
Recommended Tracks: Cold, In Time To Voices, 7 Years & Slip Into Blue.