Last Harbour - Your Heart, It Carries the Sound

by Andy Brown Rating:8 Release Date:2012-02-20

Twenty seconds into the album and Kevin Craig's mournful baritone pours out of the speakers: "Listen, my brother, listen…" You'd find it hard not to, such is the commanding nature of Craig's voice; the soulful, powerful and brooding force at the centre of Your Heart, It Carries the Sound. This album sees the Manchester collective offer up a stripped-back, sparse affair; appropriately written in an isolated Northumbrian cottage and recorded in St Margaret's Church in Manchester. On the opening title track, Craig's voice bears more than a passing resemblance to that of Michael Gira's (from US legends Swans) as he croons over the tense atmospherics of the track, "And now, I want you to notice me". It's an impressive opening piece, made all the more ominous for the monumental church organ and drums that gradually build the drama. Make no mistake, this is a dramatic album.

Second track 'Never' takes on a lighter yet no less dramatic tone; recalling Mark Lanegan's confessional pieces on those rather great Soulsavers' albums. There's a particularly beautiful moment where the music swells and Craig sings, "…You told me this true, that lovers unafraid should open up their graves - and just jump in!" There's an undeniable sense of euphoria here and, after repeated listens, it's really quite affecting. 'The Heath' is a lonely piano ballad reminiscent of the criminally underrated William Grant Conspiracy. 'Narrow Hearts' recalls Curtains era Tindersticks; a dramatic, melancholic ballad with Craig crooning, "…Narrow hearts are faithful to the river and the devout are true to the sea". It's a powerfully intoxicating piece of music and one that's no weaker for wearing its influences for all to see.

'Annabel' is a slow, considered ballad that has a dark, trad-folk feel to it; making the song feel like an unearthed lost gem and somehow timeless. 'Catherine Rising' uses glockenspiel, drums and another star turn by Craig to stunning affect and is one of the more delicately pretty pieces on the album. 'Replacements' takes a turn into darker territory and recalls the dark Americana styling's of 16 Horsepower (See their album Folklore). It's one of the most impressive tracks on the album and it's here you're reminded how powerful the band are; performances that rival The Bad Seeds at their apocalyptic best.

'Open Up and Rust' is a stunning duet in the vein of Mark Lanegan and Isobel Campbell, yet one less in thrall to the smouldering, countrified exchanges of Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood. Gone is the solace of Campbell's angelic, knowingly naive vocals; replaced by a more world weary, experienced perspective. Next up, 'The Stars Look Down' starts with sparse jabs of piano and Craig in storytelling mode as he sings, "You're afraid to go home, you don't know what they'll say…" It's around the three minute mark that the whole thing drops out and a quiet guitar and bird calls come in with Craig swooning, "And the stars that look down are a part of you". It's an arrestingly beautiful moment and shows that what Last Harbour perhaps lack in originality they more than make up for in pure emotional weight and heartfelt delivery.

'If You Mean to Be Lost', a possible album highlight, finds our guide regretful and full of wine as he sings, mantra-like, "If you mean to forget, do you ever really forget?" over tense, post-rock guitars. The album closes with the woozy 'This is How We Disappeared' which feels like it belongs on David Lynch's Lost Highway. Craig sings, "My arm 'round your shoulder, we step into nowhere" and this parting gesture sends a shiver up yr spine. Then it's over.

While Your Heart, It Carries the Sound is clearly steeped in influences, it's such an emotionally bare and well performed album (mostly recorded live) that you can't help but get wrapped up in its heavy-hearted beauty. The atmosphere doesn't often deviate from dark and brooding but when it does, even if momentarily, it reveals some of the bands strengths ('The Stars Look Down' and 'Never'). Your Heart, It Carries the Sound is an album of dark delights, Last Harbour's dark night of the soul.

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