Minor Victories is a supergroup. The band consists of Rachel Goswell from Slowdive, Stuart Braithwaite from Mogwai, Justin Lockley from Editors, and Justin's brother James Lockley, who is apparently a filmmaker most of the time, but plays bass here.
They are, in a way, the Asia of the modern era. Remember Asia - a band made up of members of Yes, King Crimson, and ELP. Huh. You know, i dislike all three of those bands, or at least find them relatively uninteresting in a bland prog-rock kind of way. But i own the first three Asia albums and was really into them when i was a pre-teen. And, just like supergroup of my youth, i really like what Minor Victories are doing here.
The album starts off with Give Up The Ghost and immediately i have a question about the lineup. Specifically, their Wiki does not mention a drummer, and yet the drumming in this song kicks! Who is doing that? Alongside that great drum beat, Goswell's voice is understated, the guitar grinds, and the aahing keyboards sounds swell in the background. This song reminds me of Garbage, who were, now that i think about, kind of a supergroup too. Hmmm...
A Hundred Ropes starts with a keyboard riff that seems out of an Editors tune, and then a chugging Editors-y drum machine rolls in. The guitar eventually starts a nice catchy riff under the keys and the drums. This is a really lovely tune, Goswell sounding a lot like the vocalist in Lush here.
The first line of Breaking My Light is "i try to forget" but the way she sings it, breathily, it sounds like she says "i try to fuck it". That makes me chuckle each time as the next line she sings is "how we got here" and i realize my mistake. Anyway, the drumming on this tune is great, a slow kick throbbing like a heartbeat as piano tinkles and the guitars chug. The song is gloriously noisy on the chorus.
Their next tune, Scattered Ashes (Song for Richard), is one of my favorite songs of the past few years. The supergroup becomes even more super with the addition of James Graham, singer in The Twilight Sad. Graham and Goswell alternate verses, her voice a faint counterpoint to his rich rumble. The song just moves along wonderfully with hand claps and groovy drumming and a great pulsing melody. On the chorus, the keyboards swell up and the whole thing sways beautifully. This song is transcendent -- just loud and glorious and wonderful, with a great beat and some soaring keyboards and guitars.
Folk Arp starts noisy then gets quiet as Goswell sings over a light guitar and some strings. It gets a little noisier as it goes along. Cogs is faster-paced, the song just kind of tearing along at a good clip. It rocks, but both of these two tunes are kind of generic for Minor Victories, the essence of the band distilled down two different ways. Not to say that either is a bad song per se...
The group once again becomes even more super on For You Always where the Red House Painters / Sun Kil Moon vocalist Mark Kozelek adds a slurred, rambling vocal performance. I mean, seriously -- was Kozelek drunk in the studio? He tells some kind of unfocused story about people coming over and everyone but the girl laughing at him because of his drying laundry being all over the place. Then Goswell takes the woman's point of view as the song becomes a back and forth duet. It's a fun, goofy, weird song, and i really like the Tortoise-like xylophone riff that Lockley adds.
Out To Sea is a slower tune built out of noise, tinkling piano, and strings. Goswell's voice is distant and the whole song is buried under guitar distortion moving at a glacial pace.
They bring back the Tortoise tinkling keys in The Thief, combining it with a flat drum hit, Goswell singing hushedly, and the guitar grooving. Seriously Braithwaite -- that is a really awesome riff. This song is just insanely catchy.
A delicate piano starts off Higher Hopes. This is mostly a quiet song, a whispered voice, Goswell singing wordlessly, and then it kicks into overdrive, everyone pounding away, the guitar a whirr of noise and the drums a flat thunk. It's a lovely, noisy ending to the record.
I really like this album. It involves musicians from other projects that i have enjoyed, and they all work together really well to create an engaging, interesting album.
And in the heat of the moment, i tell myself, "Don't cry" even though they are the contemporary version of Asia...