Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit


Philip Selway – Familial
01 September 2010, 14:00 Written by Leah Pritchard

A few weeks ago, I was excited to read an article in which the writer documented listening to a band with no preconceptions. It is a testament to the difficulty of this task that I cannot remember even one of his methods. On the several occasions I hit play on Familial, I attempted some bias-destroying imagination exercises, but the truth of it is that in order to listen to any album without bias, you have to be completely oblivious to what you are hearing. Whilst it is easy enough not to recall his previous work as soon as the album starts (musically, it couldn’t be all that much further away) there is always that voice in the back of your mind reminding you that you have heard the peaks of this man’s talent. It would be difficult to say anything about Phil Selway’s debut solo album without first acknowledging that huge elephant in the room.

Opener ‘By Some Miracle’ immediately sets the mood for the next thirty minutes. Pleasant vocals and simple melodies on top of unremarkable acoustic guitar lines with little lyrical exploration beyond what the titles predict. It is often only the production – the warmth of the double bass intro to ‘The Ties That Bind Us’, for instance, or the way in which his voice on ‘Broken Promises’ resonates with such clarity that it places him right there in the room with you – that stops you from ignoring the songs altogether. With such stripped back arrangements, the songwriting doesn’t often old its own.

The sparse percussion, handled here not by Selway but by Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche, truly stands out rather than being impressive by comparison to the other elements of the music. The snare on ‘A Simple Life’ throws the initial vibe of the song from coffee shop singer-songwriter to a uniquely English dreariness before the song culminates with one of the only real crescendos of the album, whilst electronic volume swells on ‘Beyond Reason’ and what sounds like a marble dropping on a table on ‘Patron Saint’ are the sort of unpredictable yet unintrusive embellishments you’d expect of a percussionist of Kotche’s calibre.

Although there will be moments when ‘Don’t Look Down’s “What we see in the cold light can scare us all / All our fears will lessen in time” or closer ‘The Witching Hour’s repetition of “Those I love will carry me home” will be heartbreakingly apt, I doubt Phil Selway’s debut album will be the first place many people will think of to look for comfort, and comfort is the only thing this album could ever really provide.

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