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It’s only ornithology, but I like it

Birds and bold melodies on Stornaway's new album

Hazel Sheffield | March/April 2015

What is it with indie rockers and birdwatching? Guy Garvey of Elbow and Marc Riley of The Fall made a radio show about a quest for quail in the Shetlands; Jarvis Cocker and British Sea Power once went into Thetford Forest to see the nightjars. But none can match Brian Briggs, frontman of Stornoway, who met his bandmates as a fresher reading zoology at Oxford, before doing a PhD in ornithology. On Stornoway’s first album, “Beachcomber’s Windowsill”, he sang about spending hot summer nights watching birds in his garden. Their third album, “Bonxie”, features the tweeting of 20 species, starting with geese honking on the hymn-like “Between the Saltmarsh and the Sea”. The concept is nice, but it’s the big melodies, bolstered by brass and strings, that will stand out at this year’s festivals. “Love Song of the Beta Male” could almost be The Divine Comedy, and “We Were Giants” imagines a couple looking at the curvature of the Earth, clouds around their ankles. When Briggs sings “this is the world that we belong to”, the music is full of wonder. ~ Hazel Sheffield

Bonxie Apr 13th in Europe, Apr 14th North America

British tour to May 8th


ROCK AT A GLANCE

Nile Rodgers (album, out now). Four years ago the man behind Chic—and hits for others from Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” to Madonna’s “Like a Virgin”—had nothing on his plate bar treatment for prostate cancer. Then he was asked to work with Daft Punk, which yielded the global mega-hit “Get Lucky”. Then Mark Ronson made a homage to his gleaming guitar sound, which yielded the global mega-hit “Uptown Funk”. This comeback is sweetly timed.

Damien Rice (touring America, to Apr 24th; Ireland, Jul 12th-16th). Rice’s latest album, “My Favourite Faded Fantasy”, took eight years, which works out at a year for each track. The critics were ready to scoff, but found they couldn’t: Rice had built a stack of epic folk songs, adding up to 50 minutes of delicious misery.

Matthew E. White (album, out now). The follow-up to his solo debut, “Big Inner”, which had a sound as distinctive as his look (white suit, bushy beard). White’s twist on southern soul replaces the machismo with something more subtle, without losing the depth of feeling.

St Vincent (touring the Americas, to Jun 7th). With her fourth album, Annie Clark has gone from a cult figure to a star. This tour takes in Lollapalooza and Coachella; woe betide the act that has to go on after her. ~ TIM DE LISLE

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