It’s been a long five years for Tall Ships. In 2012 they released their highly acclaimed debut album ‘Everything Touching‘ which saw them travel the world and become one of the UK’s most beloved underground acts. Since then they’ve had to deal with many issues, both as a band and as individuals, leaving them in a make or break situation. Luckily, they chose to ‘make’ and re-built the foundations of the band back up to create this highly anticipated sophomore effort.
I admit, I did go into this album with slight caution. The last time I saw Tall Ships live they played a bunch of new songs that didn’t grab me in the way their previous work had. Gone were the twiddly, loop-driven guitars that originally caught my attention and instead we had this very straight up indie-rock sound that just lacked the gusto of yore. On first listen to ‘Impressions’ it seems that the band have opted for a much more cleaner sound, but what they have done is keep in all the big crescendos and heart stopping dynamics that made Everything Touching so epic. They’ve then multiplied this by a hundred to create something nothing short of gigantic.
‘Road Not Taken‘ certainly sets things up for the rest of the record, with this hushed yet major reversed guitar melody as front man Ric brings his gentle, warming vocal over the top that brings us into a drop of thick bass, driving drums with guitars sprinkled in overdrive for extra bite. The main trick for a lot of the tunes here is to take these simplistic and beautiful melodies then turn them into these grandiose slabs of widescreen pop; I dare you to listen to ‘Home‘ and ‘Day By Day‘ and not get emotional as they build and build into these perfect climactic endings.
For me, the rhythm section of Tall Ships really come into their own on this record. The drive that bassist Matt and drummer Jamie bring to tracks like ‘Meditations On Loss’ and ‘Will To Life‘ really propel the tracks to soaring new heights; the choruses on both are sublime, reaching an almost lump-in-the-throat degree. Then you have the jaunty groove of ‘Lucille‘ and the pulsating beat of ‘Lost & Found‘ which add this really nice layer to the luscious, melodic foundations put down by guitarist Ric and keyboardist Jamie.
Ric has always struck me as a thoughtful lyricist and on Impressions he really delves deep to write personal, honest lines with distinct themes of loss, love and hope. Loss is probably the most occurring theme here, but instead of dwelling on feelings of sadness and grief, Ric finds a lot of light in his words. Coupled with the elegance of its instrumentation, this can be quite an uplifting listen.
Impressions is the musical equivalent of climbing up a really, really big mountain, reaching the top, scouring the scenery and then screaming in jubilation. It’s an emotional piece but it is packed full of passion and vigor. Whenever I listen to it, I can’t help but feel moved by its sentiments and the chest swelling sense of hope that runs through it. Although this might not be for OG Tall Ships fans, it is to their credit that they have audibly put a lot of soul into this record. They have pushed themselves as a unit to make an earnest, honest heart-on-sleeve set of songs that I think is going to mean a lot to many many people.