I confess that I am something of an odd-ball where music is concerned. My oldest friend will tell you that even as a young man I would go into record stores and come out with tapes, CD’s or records often of bands I had never heard of. This is a trait I have maintained through my life and is the primary reason that I love festivals so much. I always come away with new favourite bands.
I have a very eclectic musical taste and love to explore new music. I do have a habit of spending ages listening to new albums over and over again, often trying to put my finger on what the music reminds me of. What has all of this got to do with reviewing Arcadia’s album though? Well hopefully that will become clear.
Arcelia got together in 2012 and judging by the number of gigs the play in and around Kent I guess they are based in that area. The core trio of Arcelia is Gavin Alexander, Teresa Gallagher & Simon Foster, though the trio is supplemented by a number of musicians on the album.
As is my wont I like to put new music onto my iPod so that i can give it my undivided attention and that’s exactly what I did with Arcelia’s debut album, Wrap Your Bones.
The first thing I would say about the album is that attempts to draw a comparison with another artist is a frustrating and ultimately fruitless task. The reason for this becomes apparent when you listen to the album in its entirety. I think what shines through is a sense of uniqueness, probably fuelled by the fact that all three of the trio take the lead vocal on various tracks.
When Gavin takes the lead in the early tracks I hear echoes of Paul Simon. When Teresa’s first lead comes in on third track Petal I was reminded of Eddi Reader. It was no surprise to discover later that Arcelia had worked with Eddi’s erstwhile Fairground Attraction partner Mark Nevin. When Simon takes lead vocal I thought there were echoes of James Taylor and in a couple of the closing tracks I drew comparisons with Soul legend Sam Cook.
I think by now that you will have realised that this is an album that refuses to be pigeon-holed and it is all the better for that. Clearly Arcelia draw from a number of different wells, the range of influence is broad indeed. The sense of a broad church is reinforced by the variety of instruments that dip in and out of the album.
The opening track 45 seconds features what I thought was a pedal steel guitar but I later learned that this was in fact a dobro resonator played with a slide. On Track 4 Cupid there is a duel between a double bass and chello to run the bass line. The result is simply gorgeous.
As a piece this album is beautiful, the songs are beautifully written, the vocals are quite lovely and the three part harmonies wash over you like a gentle caress. The songs progress from folk style stories underpinned by finger style guitar to soul standards and as a piece it is interesting engaging and enjoyable. This is an album that washes over you like a warm summer breeze, it draws you in and relaxes you and repeated listens bring endless rewards. It gives variety, quirky instrumentation, beautiful vocals and delightful lyrics and not a duff track. It is soulful, subtle, rich and rewarding. A delight from the first note to the last.
If like me you like to categorise your music, don’t! Pop it into your CD player, sit back relax and let the album take you on a musical journey. Trust me, it is worth the ride.