I first stumbled across Alberta Cross when they supported Oasis back in 2008. At the request of Noel Gallagher no less, the band attempted to woo those who were mad-for-it in the crowd. Performing songs from their debut album Broken Side Of Time I was really struck by how intricate and wonderful the songs were and I’ve remained invested in their work since.
The group were formed by Swedish-born lead singer and guitarist Petter Ericson Stakee and his London pal Terry Wolfers in the mid-00s. Their anthemic Americana-tinged songs possessed a vulnerability and earthiness, and on this, their seventh official release comes their best work yet.
Opening the record is ‘Mercy’ a song that neatly sums up what you’ll get throughout the record. It is expansive and melancholic, and it feels epic and joyous, reminding me of parts of The War On Drugs. I’ve always loved Stakee’s vocals but here they pack a further punch. There’s a timeless alternative sound to the song yet it also feels very individual. The lyrics are poignant “it’s always the same, you can’t rely on anything, it’s all on display….are we doing this again….mercy…can I right my wrong?” The theme of how life and its ups and downs affect our mental health is rippled through not only this song but the album as a whole.
Certainly continuing said theme is the title track, which happens to be a beautiful piano-led ballad that genuinely caught me off guard on first listen and yes a tear was shed. There’s heartache and yet solace in the song, “we’re all sinking ships underwater” Petter sings over a stunning refrain. ‘Glow In The Dark’ follows, with fears of dark skies and being surrounded by water it enhances the image of despair yet again, but with the strength of the melody, it will also instil hope in the listener.
‘Between You And Me’ is a song about escapism “Do you ever want to disappear? Oh so far away from here” it has a chorus you will hum for weeks and a guitar riff you’ll want to air guitar to all day. ‘Come To A Place’ is a song that should be absolutely huge. If Chris Martin had written it the world would have gone crazy, Petter deserves so much praise for his lyrics, I genuinely feel he is one of the most underrated songwriters and vocalists out there.
The production of Sinking Ships is expansive and really helps form and build the songs. Recorded in The Wool Hall in Frome, Somerset. It was originally a residential studio set up by Tears for Fears in the 1980s and used by many artists, including The Smiths and Van Morrison. It feels like there’s been a huge inspiration from the walls and history of the venue, especially on ‘Vespertine’ with its haunting, driven sonic sounds. Again it dark, storm clouds surrounding and not being able to see a thing, but remains full of hope and vigour.
‘Bloom’ is another major highlight. It opens like a Kid A-era Radiohead song and just grows into itself. It encapsulates the album perfectly, there’s a great vibe throughout this song, and it has dance elements, a funky bass slapping you around the face and will get the head nodding and feet tapping, heck you might even get up for a dance. What comes next, and indeed closes the record, comes as quite a surprise.
Having had an album of pretty intense, personal introspection we get a cover of Sharon Van Etten’s ‘Every Time The Sun Comes Up’ and I’m pleased to report it is a stunning rendition. The original version happens to be one of my favourite songs of all time and it took me by surprise at how wonderful this is. Remaining faithful to Van Etten is key and once again Petter’s vocals steal the show, you can almost hear his heart breaking, it serves as the perfect yet unexpected final act.
Overall then Sinking Ships is a stunning collection of work, one that should not only be heard but be deeply listened to, be understood and got lost in. Rather than sinking ‘Alberta Cross’ should be soaring. And I hope this album finds them doing just that.
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