Amber Run’s first album was a revelation, and since I saw them on tour supporting Lewis Watson in 2014, they’ve been that band that I tell everyone about and can’t believe that no one has heard of. I really enjoyed interviewing the band when I was a writer for my student newspaper, and I was so shocked when I heard that things hadn’t worked with their record label, and slightly concerned that I wouldn’t get to hear another gem like 5AM again.
Easing around that scary-second-album trap, the band retains their magic here, although the content of the two records is very different. The sobriety which pervaded some of their earlier songs, such as ‘I Found’ and ‘Noah’ prevails, while the happier tones of ‘Good Morning’ and ‘Spark’ are few and far between.
The band has made no secret of the effects and influence of their experiences and struggles in the music industry since they released their debut, but I think the searing lyrical honesty strengthens the album, sharing wisdom in a beautifully-phrased way. Unashamedly dark at points, this album cuts through and feels like a very pure and personal account of recent events, reaching out to listeners in a way that everyone can empathise with.
The album is interwoven with anthemic refrains which stick in your mind a long time after listening. ‘Fickle Game’ is a haunting insight into a volatile relationship with self-esteem and the meaning of life, declaring, ‘I’m fast enough to get in trouble, but not fast enough to get away. And I’m old enough to know I’ll end up dying but not young enough to forget again’. I love that the meaning of a lot of the songs is left ambiguous, intermingled disappointments in love and the music industry alike, but left open to interpretation.
Stand out tracks include the (slightly perfume-name-sounding) ‘Dark Bloom’, one of the slower songs on the album, which details the pain of unrequited love. ‘White Lie’ is strangely reminiscent of Keane circa 2004, which is by no means a bad thing. This track is another frank account of adult life’s failure to live up to childhood expectations, as Keogh notes, ‘I’m a failure, I’m a disaster, and I want to be anything else.’ Maybe not one to listen to on a hangover.
Anyone who has heard ‘I Found’ will know that Amber Run are masters of stunning, pared back harmonies, and it’s so great to see this theme carried through, especially in ‘Are You Home?’ and ‘Haze’, which are both wrought through with a sustained tranquility. The desperate sadness to ‘Machine’ and ‘Wastelands’ makes for a quieter end to the album, and it’s almost as if you can feel the band take the brakes off for the final four tracks in a softer outpouring of emotion.
Summarising – the album is pretty special and an impressive second record after only a year since the last one. Incredibly profound, moving at points, and an exceptional ability to make music which everyone can identify with. ‘No Answers’, ‘Stranger’ and ‘Perfect’ are also must-listens. I really hope that this album gets the band the recognition they deserve this time.