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Feature Review: Admiral Fallow, Tree Bursts in Snow

Admiral Fallow
Tree Bursts in Snow
[Nettwerk (2012)]

Admiral Fallow‘s Tree Bursts in Snow is a versatile record thoroughly entrenched in modern British folk rock. The 5-piece begins the record with a surprisingly sparse male-female duet, “Tree Bursts,” and the first voice you hear is Sarah Hayes, though nearly all of the leads afterward on the album come from guitarist Louis Abbott. Hayes’s voice provides plenty of the interest throughout by being a sweet foil to Abbott’s slightly mumbly voice and as part of the orchestration throughout. (Check out her little “bops” in “Guest of the Government.”) A pounding indie rocker (“The Paper Trench”) follows this tender opener, and there’s easy pop, folk, and more to be found throughout.

The songwriting remains strong on the diverse material, but it’s how the band handles the arrangements of all their songs that really makes this album stands out. (Some of this is surely thanks to a really top-notch production team at Cem 19 studios.) The hymn-like bridge in “Beetle in the Box” breaks the song out of its simple rock beat, and there’s just enough time left in the song afterward for the band to put a little crescendo into the end of the song. Orchestra instruments like flutes play lovely lines in songs like “Old Fools” and “The Way You Were Raised,” mixing with the heavy guitars and keys and violins to produce a lush, but never cluttered, sound. And the band manages their build-ups better than anything I can think of since Josh Ritter’s “Thin Blue Line.” “Old Fools” qualifies as a “suite” despite being only 6 minutes. I counted at least four musical themes and tunes going on among the instruments and vocal line, and they’re all woven in at various points.

It’s sufficient to say that, if you like any of the British folk- and Americana-inspired indie rock that’s been coming out since Mumford and Sons hit it big a few years ago (but you want better lyrics and songwriting than M&S offers), you should pick up this record. It’s brilliant. You can also listen to the band’s prior work (also recommended) on their Bandcamp site.

Here’s a couple tracks from the record:

—Jon Patton (Baltimore, MD)

[Editor’s note: The CD version will be released in June. The download was released on May 22.]

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