Songwriting as the star of the show
Karl Blakesley
11:52 2nd November 2022

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Over the last two years, I would happily wager that there are few bands that have served up as much quality music in that timeframe as Low Island. 

On their debut If You Could Have It All Again, the Oxford-based electro-pop quartet emphatically introduced themselves through an eclectic whirlwind of sound that lyrically confronted heartbreak and cyclical conflict, but ultimately looked towards a more optimistic future. Then earlier on this year, they delivered their brilliant Just Another Dreamer EP which showcased just how much their sound has matured in such a short space of time, wonderfully marrying up electronic flourishes, catchy choruses and poignant lyricism. 

However, the thing that makes Low Island’s output so impressive is the fact that they are truly an independent outfit. Self-financed and self-produced, their work is released on their own Emotional Interference record label and incredibly their debut album was not even recorded in a professional music studio. In fact, the vocals were recorded in a bedroom cupboard of all places! It is this DIY nature that has brought a rawness and an authenticity to Low Island’s music that has helped to set them apart from some of their peers. Now, just over 18 months after delivering one of the best debuts of 2021, Low Island have returned with their excellent sophomore outing – Life In Miniature

As the name of the record suggests, it is a snapshot of the last two years in which frontman Carlos Posada seemed to encounter all of life’s blessings and curses during one quite intense period. From love and loss to happiness and grief, to sad endings and new beginnings, here Low Island present a beautiful tapestry of treasured memories that, although personal, impactfully resonate out of the audio through lyrical gut-punches and life-affirming sonic uplifts.

This contrast of emotions is presented straight out of the gate on ‘Goodbye Bluefin’, which opens the record on the words “Just another tearful goodbye, another beautiful day.” It sets the stage immediately for the upcoming conflict between pain and pleasure, with the shuffling Caribou-esque arrangement carrying an air of melancholy early on before then ending in an invigorating jazz-infused passage. 

Lead single ‘Can’t Forget’ then continues the narrative, baring a welcome hint of soul as the lyrics detail fears of growing up and leaving home. It eventually erupts into a scintillating guitar solo at the song’s climax, producing the album’s first real jaw-drop moment. Thematically ‘Kid Gloves’ is a natural follow-up, an ode to childhood and the comforts of home. It’s one of the album’s poppiest tracks, bouncing along with a shimmering synth-driven melody, some wonderful gospel-like vocals and more than a few shades of The 1975.

The emotional heart of the record then lies in the next two songs, which both pay tribute to Carlos Posada’s late grandfather, Robin, who sadly passed away earlier this year just days before the release of their Just Another Dreamer EP. The first ‘Forever Is Too Long’ initially bares a slight resemblance to Radiohead’s ‘Weird Fishes/Arpeggi’, until Posada’s gorgeous falsetto gracefully guides the listener into a bright, heartening chorus, the words of which echo those of a poem his grandfather once wrote for him: “Always know, I’ll see you through, life’s ups and downs, my love is true.” 

After using his grandfather’s words, Posada then cleverly incorporates samples of old family recordings and his grandfather’s piano into the touchingly titled Robin, which once again pulls hard on the heartstrings thanks to lyrics like “cling to the thought of you, can’t quite believe it’s done, I miss all of your stories, every single one.” The sincerity in the songwriting really shines through on both tracks and you’ll really struggle to not be deeply moved.

After that emotional one-two, ‘You & Me’ is a welcome uplift thanks to its playful melody, whilst ‘Words Are Out Of Reach’ is a love song that sparkles with exquisite electronic textures and Posada’s soft vocal tones. 

“Find a place for a heart made whole again.”

However, if I was to have one minor criticism it would be to do with the sequencing. As the album is so frontloaded with great singles and beautiful tracks, there is a slight fade towards the back end as a result. For example, ‘Come A Long Way’ is a pleasant enough ambient track, ‘Into The Blue’ is once again superbly written and ‘Wasn’t For Nothing’ gently jitters into a triumphant finale. However, because of their placement, none of them can quite match the impact of the earlier moments. 

It’s not enough to derail the record though and the closing title track is able to end proceedings on a wonderfully understated note, offering up a bare-bones, low-fi hymnal that sends the listener on their way with a warming message to “Find a place for a heart made whole again.”

With Life In Miniature, Low Island have successfully built on last year’s debut with another strong collection of songs that simply radiate with electronic majesty whilst also frequently moving you to your core. The songwriting really is the star of the show this time, gifting a beautiful reflection on life, love, death and memory that is just stunningly poetic in its blend of joy and melancholy. This may be Life In Miniature but the lasting impact is closer to the max.

Life In Miniature arrives November 4th

Grab your copy of the Gigwise print magazine here.

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