Courting The Squall, the debut solo album by Guy Garvey is an album full of variety, the song’s ‘don’t fit the Elbow template’, instead bringing the singer to new ground, with its quietly experimental approach. The album dabbles effortlessly with a variety of genres, jazz being the most obvious and offers Garvey the platform to show off his vocal ability, as well as his ability as a songwriter.
The opening track Angela’s Eyes begins with chugging bass and immediately launches into low key jazz fusion territory with its off beat horn section and intricate drum beat, over this instrumentation Garvey wryly leads a vintage sounding chorus of staggered words and ‘yeahs’. Stepping into softer territory the second and title track of the album is a quiet and sincere ballad with a prevalent drum beat keeping the time as Garvey croons about distance. His extensive vocal range is capped and subdued, the perfect approach to this understated and emotional song.Unwind, the fourth track is my favourite track from the album, the constant repetition of a simple, pulsing but earthy bass line coupled with the simple two drum beat is a perfect introduction, smoothly paving the way for the vocal melody to join, with Guy Garvey’s subtle lyricism, the track gradually evolves from its simple roots to include a simplistic guitar part and eventually haunting vocal melodies, subtle cymbal work and gentle piano build into a rousing array of sound before the track gently draws to a close.
Further jazz influences can be heard on the hazy and sophisticated duet Electricity, an honest and effortless Parisian inspired song. Without sounding derivative or imitative this song is quiet and cool, the harmonies between Garvey and Jolie Holland are exceptional and the muted instrumentation perfectly shows off the abilities of both singers, however Holland steals the show, authentic and vintage, her delivery and tone are impeccable. Reminiscent of a mournful Billie Holiday her voice perfectly encapsulates the vibe of the song, and as all the instruments come together for the no frills conclusion, the last breathy harmony, although simple, finishes the song perfectly. Belly of the Whale is another step in a different direction, the funky bass line and frantic beat coupled with the echoing vocals could be compared to a stripped back Biffy Clyro, however the horns and glockenspiel that follow show the reliance on traditionally orchestral instruments in order to shape the sound of the album.
Overall the album is great, the amount of diversity between songs, in tone, tempo and genre means that there is something for everyone. The piano, drums and bass shine as the most prevalent instruments, with the latter shaping Garvey’s melody rather than being resigned to the background, this use of the bass over guitar adds a down to earth and simplistic touch to what could otherwise be seen as an art rock record and adds an interesting and approachable element to the album.