Music

Guillemots: Through The Windowpane

Startlingly ambitious and soulful, in all its jazzy pop majesty, Through The Windowpane is a truly magnificent record quite unlike anything else you'll hear this year.


Guillemots

Through the Windowpane

Label: Polydor
US Release Date: Available as import
UK Release Date: 2006-07-17
Amazon
iTunes

A few months ago I covered an EP by London-based quartet Guillemots that I giddily proclaimed as the pop record of the year. It sounded bold and ambitious, as if it was permanently suck in that magic moment when the Wizard of Oz bursts from black and white into colour. And while that might be lacking a bit of critical distance, I’m standing by it, 'cos months later, the From the Cliffs EP still sounds utterly fantastic to me. It was a glittery, sweeping release that marked Guillemots out as a band onto something very special indeed. Even in the moments when the overreaching ambition didn’t quite take off into the air, it was thrilling to listen to a band aspiring to make such a weird and beautiful pop racket. What a relief it is then, that the album proper, fulfils all the promise of the EP's and blows up the invention and melody into something that frequently shoots out into space, whilst still sounding as intimate as a lovelorn whisper in the ear. From the opening orchestral swells of "Little Bear" to the samba carnival storm that closes the stunning "Sao Paulo", Through the Windowpane, in all its jazzy pop majesty, is a truly magnificent record quite unlike anything you'll hear this year.

If you were to glance at the music press or just switch on MTV2 you'd think that Britain was on fire with fresh faced new rock and rollers exploding from every town and city all over the country. The Arctic Monkeys are at number one having sold a bazillion records, the Automatic are on morning television, hell, even my Gran has got herself a Kooks tattoo... And while there are kicks to be had from these bands' youthful stabs at rock and roll, it can’t cover up that so much of the sounds being feted at every twist and turn leave you, well, cold. After a while, Libertines aping kids with guitars, running amok over grotty stages, start to look like the safest, most ordinary thing in the world. Which is why Guillemots stand out a mile. Drawn from the widest of sonic pallets, Through the Windowpane is the most striving, creative, soulful rock/pop/jazz/prog/whatever album this listener has heard since, er, ages ago.

It would be easy for any band to end up getting lost in the haze of ideas and sounds that colour this record, but Guillemots rarely do. There is a fearless musicality here, as all manner of keyboards, strings and brass sounds get swirled together, and crescendos of noise and clutter are somehow pulled round into moments of pure pop songwriting. Yep, Through the Windowpane is a pop record on the scale that people used to make. The sounds being made here only seem so beguiling because, unlike in 1967 when The Beatles were off creating whole new universes, the pop music you hear on the radio today sounds tired and worn out from 40 years worth of rehashing and saturation. Take the recent semi-hit in England, "Made-Up Love Song #43" -- which, even with its childishly nonsensical lyrics and candy-floss sweet melody, is still slightly off-kilter and totally compelling. Singer Fyfe Dangerfield croons the lines, "You got me off the sofa / Just sprang out of the air / The best things come from nowhere / I can't believe you care!", as the song bursts into an exultant celebration of new love, before eventually fading out against a waterfall of whispered voices and bubbling keyboards. The only other song here to survive from the EP is "Trains to Brazil", which remains the most joyous, dizzily careering three minutes of horn-drenched melancholy you’re going to hear anywhere in 2006. It might evoke the tradgedy and folly of the recent London bombings, but the sheer defiant excitement of the closing lines, "Can't you live and be thankful you're here? / See it could be you tomorrow, next year", is a thrilling, cinematic pean to life.

Elsewhere, "If the World Ends" is a gorgeous piece of heart-wrenching soul music, with Dangerfield's delicately pained voice floating just over the organs and keyboards that carry the song towards something genuinely unique and touching. Indeed, Dangerfield has a voice that could induce mass swooning at a hundred paces, and on "Blue Would Still Be Blue" he sings solo but for a clinking toy piano, and it's at once beautifully restrained and overflowing with melodramatic emotion. And so it continues -- "Annie, Let’s Not Wait" sounds like a nursery rhyme set to a cheap Casio beat before turning into soaring pop sing-a-long and ending as a rattling samba kickabout, and though recent single "We’re Here" is a song just slight enough to get blown away by the skyward production, it still takes you on one hell of a ride.

Through the Windowpane, then, is a record of dazzling invention and scope. Sure, it sounds huge and warm and at times preposterously overblown, but to criticise the band for this would surely miss the point. Guillemots have created a record perfectly out of synch with its times, one that is drawn in full colour from the wildest of imaginations. Put simply, Through the Windowpane is one of the most memorable and astounding debut albums of recent memory.

8

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

9
Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane
Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Mobley Laments the Evil of "James Crow" in the US

Austin's Mobley makes upbeat-sounding, soulful pop-rock songs with a political conscience, as on his latest single, "James Crow".

Music

Jordan Tice's "Bad Little Idea" Is a Satirical Spin on Dire Romance (premiere)

Hawktail's Jordan Tice impresses with his solo work on "Bad Little Idea", a folk rambler that blends bluesy undertones with satiric wit.

Music

Composer Ilan Eshkeri Discusses His Soundtrack for the 'Ghost of Tsushima' Game

Having composed for blockbuster films and ballet, Ilan Eshkeri discusses how powerful emotional narratives and the opportunity for creative freedom drew him to triple-A video game Ghost of Tsushima.

Film

Love and Cinema: The Ruinous Lives in Żuławski's L'important c'est d'aimer

Żuławski's world of hapless also-rans in L'important C'est D'aimer is surveyed with a clear and compassionate eye. He has never done anything in his anarchic world by the halves.

Books

On Bruce Springsteen's Music in Film and TV

Bruce Springsteen's music in film and television captured author Caroline Madden's imagination. She discuses her book, Springsteen as Soundtrack, and other things Springsteen in this interview.

Music

Alt-pop's merci, mercy Warns We May "Fall Apart"

Australian alt-pop singer-songwriter, merci, mercy shares a video for her catchy, sophisticated anthem, "Fall Apart".

Film

Tears in Rain: 'Blade Runner' and Philip K. Dick's Legacy in Film

Blade Runner, and the work of Philip K. Dick, continues to find its way into our cinemas and minds. How did the visions of a paranoid loner become the most relevant science fiction of our time?


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.