Jumping for the Rocks – These Single Spies LP

I was starting to wonder if I’d ever need to write this review. I was given a promo copy of ‘Shipwrecking’ by These Single Spies as far back as last April when the band played Edinburgh, with talk at that time of an autumn release.

But the autumn didn’t bring the album instead just silence. Disappointingly December brought the news that These Single Spies would be splitting, pausing only to mark their demise by the release of the record in May.

Once again though May and much of June slipped by. Just as I was wondering if ‘Shipwrecking’ would ever be released, without any fanfare the TSS Facebook announced last week that the album was finally available to download.

You might think that the lengthy delay in getting ‘Shipwrecking’ out wouldn’t augur well for the record. Not a bit of it.

It’s an ambitious, sweeping rock record, both musically and lyrically. Indeed it’s the latter that is one of the record’s distinguishing characteristics – there are plenty of words in the songs, lots of words in fact, which lends the tune an unusual cadence. That helps the record stand out even if occasionally singer Alex sounds he’s struggling a little to fit all his lyrics in.

Musically there’s plenty going on with varied instrumentation used throughout. But rather than throw everything into the one soup, These Single Spies instead use the different instruments sparingly to give each song their own stamp whether for example the ominous synths and oboe on the gothic waltz of ‘Black Bullets’ or the clarinet on ‘Jumping for the Rocks’.

‘Shipwrecking’ is a record that reveals itself gradually. Initially you’ll likely pick up on the big rock songs, opening song ‘Ahab’ or single ‘OK Corral’. Each listen though allows the other songs to reveal slowly reveal their charms.

If the record has a fault it’s that it occasionally overreaches through ambition. But I’m completely at a loss to explain quite why it has endured such a tortured birthing. Certainly it’s nothing to do with the quality of the music contained in its bytes (sadly, its digital only at the moment).

For months last year, ‘Shipwrecking’ was earmarked for my top 10 albums of 2011. Circumstances may have denied it that particular accolade but it still looks like it’s a sure bet for the Top 10 this year.

Get the album from the These Single Spies Bandcamp.

Not surprisingly since more than two and a half years have passed since ‘Shipwrecking’ was recorded and there were two new songs included in the TSS set last April, singer/songwriter Alex Mattinson has got new material. His new project ‘Death to Dreaming’ was unveiled last week as well. It’s worth checking out and I’ll write about it soon.

The song that alerted me to These Single Spies: