Malcolm Middleton - Into The Woods

Liam McGrady 13/06/2005

Rating: 4/5

'Into The Woods' is one of the albums of the year so far; maybe even the album of the year so far. Sceptical? Well there's only one way to find out if the statement is true, and all it involves is a walk to your local record store and the outlay of a smidgen of cash. It's really not that hard, especially when you consider that the little bit of time and effort you put in is going to be repaid a hundred fold by Mr Middleton and his astonishingly fine record. The first two tracks on the said record, 'Break My Heart' and 'Devastation', are just breathtaking. The former is a head nodding, sprightly, acoustic number (albeit with caustic and cutting lyrics, which like the vast majority of the songs pertain to torrid, failed relationships and self loathing), while the latter is a beautiful, sumptuous folksy ballad where Middleton knocks out such fantastic lines that scores of other songwriters are made redundant in a heartbeat (try: “I'm sorry for the silence, I'm sorry for the noise, you know I'll make it up to you with a million steak McCoy's”, for example). And then just when you've got it down as a stunningly expressive and emotive, acoustic based album along comes 'Loneliness Shines' like an exuberant scamp fed on an exclusive diet of M83's space age walls of sound and marshmallows (where again, the life affirming music is balanced against lyrics delivered by a battered and bruised heart and an affecting Scottish burr, “Seems like a year and this feels like a hole/Sitting with the sun in the slats on my wall/Bumps in the carpet the threat of despair, I've left the whole world under there”). So that's just 3 tracks, and there are another 9 of equal class, eloquence and beauty still to come: go on, call it a treat; it'll be the best present you've ever bought yourself.

(originally part of the This Month We Have Mostly Been Listening To... feature)