Minor Victories is comprised of Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell, Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite, Editors’ Justin Lockey and brother James. Whilst an outfit featuring members of existing, esteemed a supergroup, this does not appear to be the case with Minor Victories. Given the “alternative” nature of the members’ backgrounds, it might therefore be appropriate to term the quartet an “alternative supergroup”.
As would be expected, the music presented on Minor Victories is as melancholy and expansive as the sum of of its parts, with elements of Editors, Mogwai and Slowdive evident in approximately equal parts. The prospect and execution of this intriguing blend is generally captivating, and the finished piece fortunately does not fall short of representing a major musical victory.
In addition to its notable roster, the band has recruited some additional particular personnel in guest roles. On ‘Scattered Ashes (Song For Richard)’ The Twilight Sad’s James Graham’s unique accented vocals make an appearance, whilst on ‘For You Always’ the characteristic ramblings of Sun Kil Moon’s Mark Kozelek are present, with both instances providing a refreshing counterpoint to Goswell’s gentle vocal delivery.
Opening into ‘Give Up The Ghost’, Minor Victories drones into pounding percussion, before fuzzy guitar slices into Goswell’s vocals to carry the opening track to the peak of its resounding declaration of intent. By contrast, ‘A Hundred Ropes’ centres around a looped electronic melody as the track progresses at an enjoyable yet leisurely pace, before a powerful once again signals the track’s conclusion. ‘Breaking My Light’ is one of the record’s strongest and longest tracks, as sweeping dynamics inspire images of breathtaking vistas in a way you can only assume has been pioneered by post-rock veteran Braithwaite. Switching pace once again, ‘Scattered Ashes (Song For Richard)’ is impassioned with James Graham’s contribution pairing beautifully with Goswell’s vocals as the two and the track itself sway and dance to a charming conclusion.
Mark Kozelek’s contribution is drastically different as Goswell matches his meandering pace in alternate verses as tuned percussion provides the simple, rhythmic spine of the track, providing a memorable and pleasantly nonchalant change of pace on a record which strikes a downbeat tone overall. For example, the largely instrumental follow-up track ‘Out To Sea’ would almost certainly be more at home in a post-apocalyptic disaster movie than an inspiring romantic comedy, although the contrast of an inclusion in the latter could be brilliant in its own way. The extensive closing one-two of ‘The Thief’ and ‘Higher Hopes’ is emotive and powerful, with the ebb and flow of the former subsiding to allow passage of the tender introduction of the record’s closing track. Building to a stunning crescendo, ‘Higher Hopes’ is a wondrous piece of music, and a fitting end to an accomplished debut album.
With unavoidable expectations stemming from experience, and especially combined experience in the formation of an alternative supergroup, the bar was set high for Minor Victories at its namesake, which both have exceeded with ease and style. When also considering that the entire record was comprised without a single full band meeting, you can begin to truly appreciate the musical skill and vision available to this astounding quartet.