Out Lines – Conflats

Kathryn Joseph, Marcus Mackay and The Twilight Sad's James Graham balance sadness with defiance on their Out Lines project

Album Review by Eugenie Johnson | 18 Oct 2017
Album title: Conflats
Artist: Out Lines
Label: Rock Action
Release date: 27 Oct

In Glasgow’s Easterhouse estate resides Platform, a multi-arts and community space that offers a year-round programme of performance, music and visual arts with participation at its heart. It was here that The Twilight Sad’s James Graham and SAY Award-winning songwriter Kathryn Joseph met with those who had utilised the facility. They gathered a series of interviews, crafting them into lyrics, accompanying music steered by producer and percussionist Marcus Mackay.

What emerged was a one-off performance for Platform’s Outskirts Festival, which has now been recorded as Conflats, an album that perfectly blends each musician’s strengths; traditional folk elements and harmonium combine with intense piano melodies and bass-laden synth pulses. This forms a foundation for the album’s greatest forte: its sensitive portrayal of humanity.

At times, Graham and Joseph speak of sorrow. On Our Beloved Dead, there’s both an eerie warning of 'I’ll take you down with me' and an appeal of 'I need your help please / So please help me,' while on There is a Saved Place, Graham explains 'Once a week I lock the doors and I draw the curtains' in plain, forthright spoken word. The greatest gut-punch is saved for If You Love Me Will You Lie, a heartbreaking narrative surrounding a couple clinging on to a failed relationship. 'You said that I was keeping score,' Graham sings before almost pleading 'Why can’t you accept that there’s no more.'

Through all this, Out Lines remain determined not to wallow in hardship. For every show of sadness, they balance the narrative with defiant statements like 'I won’t cry' and 'I’m gone but not forgotten.' Sometimes, a sense of resolve and solace is found in others, as on There is a Saved Place: 'If it wasn’t for you, I’d be like this all the time.' Ultimately, Conflats proves to be a powerful testament to the strength and beauty of the human spirit, even in the darkest of times. 

Listen to: There is a Saved Place, If You Love Me Will You Lie