Admiral Fallow – Tiny Rewards
There’s something crystalline about Tiny Rewards: maybe it’s frontman Louis Abbott’s clear tenor reaching upwards (paired often with Sarah Hayes, who sounds like she ought to be accompanied only by a harp – though we’ll gladly keep her in Admiral Fallow); maybe it’s the faultless (if safe) production, or self-examining juxtapositions, from the irony free-sentiment of Evangeline, almost-30s touchingly imagining parenting, to the soft distanced envying of an early morning walk-of-shamer on Sunday.
But earnestness held in blue-tone suspension for 50 minutes 48 seconds can drain a listener – kind of like when you (sober) are chilling, listening to music with a friend (on some combo of molly and marijuana), and after a while you wish they’d leave, go fondle a cat, and share with it their banal and yearning and hyperdilated observations – sparing you. Which isn’t giving Admiral Fallow enough credit. Sonically forward-looking (relative to the band’s first two albums) while lyrically reminiscent, often nostalgic, Tiny Rewards has well-worked harmonies and lucid lyrics. ‘Tiny rewards’ are just that: ‘common sense’ rhymed with ‘ebullience,’ one ebullient chord change in Evangeline, Kevin Brolly’s clarinet lines scattered through the album.
Still, one takes hints of something more progressive on Happened In The Fall – a techno pulse, a moment when someone (accidentally?) turns up the gain on Abbott’s guitar – and wishes for more. Thick, uplifting chords start to bore – I’d like to hear Abbott growl, or drummer Phil Hague deliver a cheeky crash, just to know the band can occupy a different emotional register. Midway through Some Kind of Life, emotional dissonance (‘completely at odds with the life I’ve built’) seems ready to burst into jazz, but the band never reaches escape speed, settling for more of the same. Tiny Rewards is a departure accidentally highlighting the modesty of its scope – Admiral Fallow overturn every stream bed rock down a fair stretch of quiet creek somewhere, misty, matitudinal, greeny-blue… but they are sometimes too interested in maintaining the magic of that sonic-emotional space to muddy the waters – crack a not-so-earnest smile and splash around.