This is so late it’s embarrassing. More often than not when I get this late, I just let an album slip by. Pretend that I didn’t notice.
But ‘Imaginary Walls Collapse’ by Adam Stafford (out on Song, By Toad Records nearly THREE MONTHS AGO) is just so bloody good, that I can’t let it pass without comment.
Whilst impressed with the solo shows, there were definitely bits of Stafford’s last LP ‘Build A Harbour Immediately’ that didn’t completely work for me. By contrast I can’t find a weak link on ‘Imaginary Walls Collapse’, as it takes the best bits of the last album and live shows and raises the bar significantly.
Key to that is that the record taps into the feel of the spellbinding live performances yet uses the studio to enhance and deepen the experience. So staples of the live show such as the human beatbox and the looped guitars are all present lending the record a cohesive feel – even though the songs themselves are actually quite varied.
But, compared to the live shows, there’s a greater breadth to Stafford’s sonic palette throughout whether it be the backing vocals of Siobhan Wilson subtly complementing the main vocal or simply the wider range of instrumentation on offer in the studio.
Side one of the record illustrates the record’s scope perfectly. Opening track ‘Satan’ is dense and ominous (ominous is a theme throughout) and whilst ‘Vanishing Tanks’ which follows, is almost as layered as the opener, it’s also chock full of memorable hooks, encapsulating perfectly the sort of pop that Stafford wishes the charts were full of.
Following on from that ‘Ghost Arms’ offers up a far more spacious sound before ‘Please’ displays more insistent hooks and an almost gospel feel.
You get the idea from that selection of tunes and the rest of the record follows a similarly diverse path with ‘Sound of Fear Evaporating’ perhaps the album’s most accessible moment through to the calmest song on the record, ‘Phased Return’ which brings the record to a close.
So you can understand why I’ve finally chosen to complete this review rather than discard it. Honestly, ‘Imaginary Walls Collapse is undoubtedly right up there with the very finest records of 2013.
But, of course, you probably know that already! 😉
A live video performance of ‘Vanishing Tanks’ courtesy of Gerry Loves Records: