By Allyson Bills
Technology is amazing these days in that it has the power to unite human beings around the world. With bands, it brings members together who have opposite schedules. In the case with UK’s Minor Victories, the use of technology enabled them to record their self-titled debut album. Minor Victories is a supergroup of sorts with all its members being comprised of prominent bands in Britain and Scotland. Vocalist Rachel Goswell is from Slowdive and Mojave 3, guitarist Stuart Braithwaite is from Mogwai, and guitarist Justin Lockey is from Editors. Lockey’s brother, James, rounds out the group on bass.
To be honest, I didn’t enjoy Minor Victories on the first couple of listens; it grew on me by on the third listen and I fell in love. My love affair with this album begins with “Give Up The Ghost.” This is a catchy shoe-gaze tune with powerful chords and beautiful distortion. Also, Goswell’s voice sounds like an angel when she sings “My blood is a raging river // Surging through my veins” will make you forget that she is deaf in one ear. The only reservation that I have with “Give Up The Ghost” how the ending is rushed, instead of following naturally to the beat. The beginning of “A Hundred Ropes” is very reminiscent of ‘80s New Wave. Luckily, the song does duplicate the sound to a tee, but adds what appears to violins, which gives an eerie element. It’s a perfect song to listen to while sailing through a storm, and hoping that you aren’t what Goswell sings, “Shipwreck in an ocean of doubt.”
If “A Hundred Ropes” is similar to sailing through a storm, then “Breaking My Light” is akin to being lost in a dark forest. Gowell’s soft vocals are soothing over the haunting pianos and guitars. “Breaking My Light” could have easily been a Mogwai song because it encapsulates a broad sound with heavy pedal effects. “Scattered Ashes” is probably the most upbeat song off this album with its fruitful indie pop, adding a shoegaze twist. This song is easily one of the best tracks off this album because the song is concise and catchy, but it doesn’t overdo it on the corniness. The vocal chemistry between guest vocalist James Graham and Goswell is impeccable, and adds depth to the track.
All good albums must have their version of a “slow jam.” On this album, it’s “Folk Arp,” which flows like a ferry in the Mississippi with it’s pretty violins and spacey pedals. To keep things interesting, Minor Victories adds an element of surprise by turning it into a rock song towards the end. Again, “Folk Arp” easily sounds like a song that would end up on a Mogwai album. Towards the middle of the album, it’s extremely evident Braithwaite controlled its musical directions. “Cogs” is yet another song that Mogwai could have released. It has the signature “big sound,” but “Cogs” also has a tock twist with guitar shredding. “Cogs” is my least favorite song on this album because while the song flows, it remains stagnant and doesn’t develop to its full potential. It sounds like the song was hastily put together because it ends without warning.
“For You Always” takes a page from “Personal” by Stars with the spoken conversational male-female dialogue. Sun Kil Moon’s Mark Kuzelek is guest vocalist on this track, in which he and Goswell converse about repairing a relationship. Sound-wise, “For You Always” is definitely the oddball track that doesn’t conform to the soaring nature of the rest of the album. The song is very simple and to-the-point in style. Minor Victories channels their inner Sigur Ros in “Out To Sea” with the sparse pianos over an upbeat guitars. However, they add their own element of shoe gaze to this song with the hazy vocals. “Out To Sea” builds up the end with booming guitars like you are ready to sail the Pacific Ocean.
“The Thief” is Minor Victories’ longest track off this album clocking in a 7:25 minutes. As much as I think this song is beautiful with its soothing and dark sounds, the slower part could have been cut in half and the buildup at the end could have been longer. Shades of Mogwai appear again in the album’s final track, “Higher Hopes.” Parts of the song made think that I was listening one of their classics, “Christmas Steps,” because the quiet rifts are very similar. “Higher Hopes” also follows the similar patterns of having unannounced booming build-ups. Other than that, it’s perfect song to end a Minor Victories album with Goswell’s voice soaring high into the sky.
Minor Victories is one of the best records that has been released thus far. Even though at times the album lacked diversity of the other band members (aside from Braithwaite), they appear to have chemistry, despite not being together in one room. Hopefully Minor Victories are not a one-shot band and will continue to make more music in the future if time permits.