If ever there were an artist to sing the praises of stubbornness, it’s Edwyn Collins. In the 2008 BBC Scotland documentary Home Again, Collins’ wife, Grace Maxwell, notes that the return of his stubbornness was an indicator that Collins was indeed recovering from two brain hemorrhages suffered in 2005. No one expected Collins to record again, and he could have easily bowed out of the spotlight with a solar system’s worth of deserved indie esteem intact. However, not every indie sacred cow has Collins’ abilities to legitimize such reverence. A solid effort in its own right, Collins’ seventh solo release, Losing Sleep, is a perfect testament to both the artist’s influence and resolve; it’s also one of the most uplifting releases in recent memory.
Losing Sleep has an influx of guest appearances. As Collins is still unable to play guitar, this is somewhat necessary. Guest vocalists such as Ryan Jarman of the Cribs and both Alex Kapranos and Nick McCarthy of Franz Ferdinand also help to illustrate the ongoing impact of Orange Juice, Collins’ first band. Jarman’s appearance on the blunt “What Is My Role” lends the song an extra air of brattiness, but his second appearance, on “I Still Believe In You”, feels somewhat extraneous. Kapranos and McCarthy seem to put in an appearance for the sake of resting all those “Franz Ferdinand sound just like Orange Juice” rumors. If Ian Curtis were still around, I’d imagine certain members of Interpol would be jumping to do the same. Other guests, including Johnny Marr and Aztec Camera’s Roddy Frame, offer nothing more than their signature guitar sounds, yet these additions prove themselves more welcome. Marr’s solo on “Come Tomorrow, Come Today”, is customarily gorgeous, and Frame’s efforts on “All My Days” serve as a reminder of just how oft-overlooked yet highly influential Aztec Camera was.
Perhaps the greatest use of a guest appearance comes in the form of Jonathan Pierce of the Drums, who helps to make “In Your Eyes” Losing Sleep‘s standout track. In terms of the duets featured, Pierce’s and Collins’ vocals—Collins’ is surprisingly in tact—compliment one another the best. Pierce sings the chorus of “And if you want to go / I’ll let you go you now, don’t have to stay / Sometimes I get tired / And I know you’ve got to find your way” in a dewy new wave voice that reaches optimum tear-jerking capabilities at “I see it in the sky / I see it in your eyes.” Even if Collins’ back story didn’t add such import to the lyrics, “In Your Eyes” would still have a devastating beauty to it.
Yet Collins does quite all right by himself. The soul-inflected title track is a particularly upbeat return to form after the understated Home Again, the album Collins began before his brain hemorrhages and completed afterward. When songs do find themselves in a similarly stripped-down territory, a genuine uplift replaces the (as Collins sees it) foreboding of Home Again. On closer “Searching for the Truth”, Collins’ earliest return to writing following his stroke, he sings, “I’m searching for the truth / Some sweet day, we’ll get there in the end / And I will always be lucky in my life / And I will find a way to get there.” In hard times, simplicity can provide the greatest comfort. Although the price of coming to this discovery can be a tragic one, Losing Sleep assures that things can only get better from here.