Since the Admiral Fallow’s debut LP, Boots Met My Face was released back in 2010 the band has rarely taken a moment to catch their breath. Touring relentlessly post-release (including a breakthrough performance at SXSW) they headed back into the studio to record their follow up effort Tree Bursts in Snow in 2012 with little time to consider what their next stage would entail.
Once the tour for this record came to its end the Glasgow outfit took the time to take stock of what they had done over the previous years, and making a calculated decision on the direction of their next move. Experimentation in this period was key, and when they were given the chance to extend their craft through new opportunities – firstly scoring ten short films for the Glasgow Film Festival, and secondly re-imagining their previous works for performances with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra – they eagerly grabbed them with both hands. An increased ear for detail and an ability to create more accomplished soundscapes came with them into the writing sessions which followed, in the isolation of their Fort William studio.
The resulting record is Tiny Rewards; the refreshed sound of a band who know exactly who they are.
‘As Easy as Breathing’ erupts to life with swagger and vim, as thundering percussion drives the track like a crashing wave, again and again into its soaring choral hook. The album’s lead single ‘Evangeline’ is a tender moment about a friend’s new child. Wrapped up in endearing lines about the “bundle of energy…transforming the mundane events” the track sits atop a gorgeous rumbling bass line counter played with some lush textured flute work.
The autobiographical style for which the band charmed fans on Boots Met My Face is here in abundance on Tiny Rewards. Whether it’s feeling wistful watching a hungover stranger stumble home (‘Sunday’), or reminiscing of their American tour in 2012 playing to empty rooms (‘Happened in the Fall’), Abbott is at his best when dousing the track in a heavy dose of nostalgia. The album’s finest and most personal moment ‘Building as Foreign’ is the perfect coming together of these elements; retelling with touching detail a returning moment to the streets he used to call home.
Sonically you can certainly see the band stretching out their limbs too. It’s not experimental in the wider sense of the word, but there are certainly strident steps away from the indie-folk tag they accrued on their previous output. Numerous tempo and stylistic changes occur unpredictably across the record, and the angular synths on ‘Some Kind of Life’ and the Postal Service-esque keyboards of ‘Seeds’ point to further progression.
Though Tiny Rewards’ twelve track length does start to feel a little weighty towards its close, it is still a truly compelling album; building from the brilliant body of work which preceded it and blazing new trails towards an exciting tomorrow.