British Indie Folkers Night Flight Have Created an Understated Gem with Their Debut LP
Night Flight choose subtle shading rather than bombast as they flesh out their songs with delicate musical textures, allowing the undulating hooks and melodies to nestle in the subconscious gently.
7 December 2018
London indie folk band Night Flight bring together their two superb, previously released EPs Wanderlust and Carousel along with two brand new tracks on their self-titled debut album. The result is a ten-track summation of the band's ability to craft timeless indie folk songs that demonstrate a classicist approach to songwriting, albeit one that places the songs firmly in the here and now.
Lead by frontman Sam Holmes, the songs on Night Flight possess the similar deep, confessional quality of many of the classic folk and rock artists of the 1970s. Holmes shares that cathartic approach to songwriting where the artist fully immerses themselves in the song, unafraid to lay bare their vulnerabilities, fear of failure and sense of loss.
"Departure" is an elegantly textured opener. Initially, simple acoustic guitar chords chime out, before Holmes' voice echoes through the darkness. As with all of the songs on the album, the unhurried musical backing allows his voice to gently entwine itself around the music as if encouraging the other instruments to enter the fray. Lyrically, the song is an almost painfully voyeuristic take on a dissolving relationship with Holmes sounding torn between resignation and resilience. As he repeats the line "I'm ready to say goodbye to you", there is a sense that his voice could crack at any moment as he bravely soldiers to the song's conclusion.
The measured pace continues on "Parade" but with Holmes quickly reaching for a heart-rending vocal hook which is beautifully reflected by a flowing slide guitar line. It's a song that draws on the classic British folk traditions of artists such as John Martyn viewed through the prism of the atmospheric indie rock of Elbow. The Jeff Buckley-esque "Death Rattle" places Holme's haunting voice alongside a single electric guitar on a song that gently draws you into a tale of a relationship that's dying a labored death ("Don't go wasting your breath on it").
"Roulette" starts as a sparse piano ballad before tapping into the Band-inspired roots rock of Summer Teeth era Wilco. It's an inspired direction that feels honest and heartfelt especially when a stinging guitar solo signals lift off as the vocals soar before settling somewhere amongst the clouds. The early Jonny Buckland-style guitar line that runs through "Machiavellians" suggests a love of early 2000s indie, but with echoing snares, that wouldn't sound out of place on a techno track, showing a band pushing to take their influences somewhere new.
Over shimmering guitar, "Forever And" finds Holmes struggling with his attempts to motivate others while "God Knows" deals with what happens when you become so blinkered by aspiration that you can't see how it affects those around you. All with a welcome understanding of how absurd it can all be. Musically, the song raises the tempo as a chugging guitar line steers the song to a breezy, spirited chorus. It's a joyous, fresh mix of the searching, mid-tempo indie rock of Wilco with traces of My Morning Jacket via early Band of Horses.
"Storm" opens with a murky atmospheric electronic loop and the steady, pitter-patter of drums as Holmes voice floats and glides as if being buffeted by the wind. What starts as a gentle gust builds to a swirling howl as the music becomes ever more intense before settling back to a light, chilly breeze. "Amsterdam" starts as a bright, piano ballad before twinkling guitar notes add sophisticated and rich textures. Album closer, "Medicine" again echoes the rich, piano-driven balladry of Elbow with Holmes voice sharing a similar soaring, lived-in poignancy.
Night Flight is an understated gem that demands the listeners undivided attention. Throughout Holmes and the band choose subtle shading rather than bombast as they flesh out the songs with delicate musical textures, allowing the undulating hooks and melodies to nestle in the subconscious gently.