Elbow’s latest release, Flying Dream I, is not a work that disappoints. Bringing the hazy and flowing dream-pop vibes that the Manchester group is known for, the album starts like a free-floating sigh, manifesting the heady evening breeze around the listener that lead, Guy Garvey describes when he says, “Fireflies rise/Spiralling up ’til we blanket the skies….”
Everything about this album invokes the distinct sound of only Elbow, a blueness that only Elbow can create. The whole album has a tinge of sadness, a skilled and soulful jazz essence, yet lighter somehow, wistful. The ether, the sky, is a constant companion for the listener throughout Flying Dream I. “Is It a Bird?” It is a bouncing, light-hearted track, almost childlike, full of wonder and questioning. “Is it a jettisoned, beautiful warrior soul..” something so easy and simple and yet full of heft for something so breezy.
The piano phrases throughout the majority of the tracks, and especially in tracks like “Six Words”, remind me of the sky, the breeze, birds flying, images that recur so often in Elbow’s work and yet they’re not overdone to the point of cliche, they’ve just become iconic. While listening to “Six Words”, I catch, “I’m part of everything again”, and I recognize the particular emotion of falling in love and how bright the world becomes in those moments. Even for just a second, that track makes the world bright again and my stomach flutters.
The upbeat drumming and simple guitar strums of “The Only Road” paired with Garvey’s lyricism is perfection. “Oh, I didn’t see you coming/, but now I’m not without you” is one of the most beautiful and concise lines I’ve heard. “I’ve never been so sure that I was right where I should be in my whole life” is another gem; this entire album is full of them.
When I saw the title, “The Seldom Seen Kid”, I instantly became giddy. That album was my introduction to Elbow, and I walked my tiny art school campus blaring that album at loud volumes. I was glad to see the kid’s return.
The slow yet jazzy beginning was not unlikely for the tone of this album. There’s a velvety softness that brings Guy Garvey’s voice, and in particular, highly skilled lyricism, to the forefront. “And babe, if you’d met him/I picture you’d sit/Blasting my wisdom/With two-barrelled wit” is more glorious than anything I could ever write. The entire song is shimmering and breathtaking, and I feel blessed that Elbow is making music while I am alive.
Flying Dream I is a heady, glimmering treasure-trove of blissful yet powerfully on point lyricism paired with distinctly dreamy and articulate melodies that create the signature magical experience that is Elbow.