Tall Ships' second record Impressions starts a lot like their first record Everything Touching ends, with the slow burn, although 'Road Not Taken' is more forthright than 'Murmurations' could ever be. Whilst the latter slowly ascends, the former leaps in stages to a jubilant closing passage which announces the Brighton quartet's return with confidence.
It also sets the tone for the record, introducing the overarching lyrical themes from the outset, including the following moving passage: "When it feels like nothing's going to change / Know that nothing stays the same / The only constant in life is pain." Despite the inclination to dance to the instrumentation throughout the track, the lyrics its married with are undoubtedly emotive in a negative way, another strand of the album introduced early.
'Will To Life' is a powerful single built on those dynamic shifts that are the foundations of the band's sound, whilst 'Petrichor' is laced with yearning as a whisper of "You know it's time for a change" fades into a chorus of soaring guitars which in turn fade to an endearing acoustic passage at the song's closing. By comparison 'Home' is an expansive and progressive masterpiece, which builds layers and tension until *that* killer guitar hook drop, which sets the track on its impressive homeward sprint.
Carrying on the theme of loss, 'Lucille' personifies the abstract feeling, and directs it towards a named character, as the lyrics address her from a distance: "I'm dying here just to hold you, and feel the warmth of your light." As the title may suggest, 'Meditations On Loss' reflects on mortality, and the conclusions reached aren't pleasant, and the lack of faith bubbling under the surface results in a ferocious and perhaps introspective number.
'Sea Of Blood' may be too explicit in its approach, but the description of a close one's passing from the vantage point of their funeral is undoubtedly a touching one. Paired with Ric Phethean's majestic vocals, the droning soundscapes are likely to draw emotions from anyone who's familiar with the sentiment. The percussion and pace are measured, and track is simply beautiful, a shimmering beauty of regret in a record about loss.
'Lost & Found' is short and sweet, providing a firm hand of reassurance between the gravity of the track before, and the epic stature of the closer which follows. 'Day By Day' is post-rock wonder for indie fans, from its trundling beginnings to the life-affirming lyrical passage which is utterly memorable as the end of fan favourite 'Vessels' but infinitely more profound. Picking up where 'Road Not Taken' left off, Phethean's offers: "So place your hand in mine / Yeah, we'll be OK / Live out the rest of our lives day by day." Bringing the overall sentiment of the record to a rounded close, yes, things can be awful, but they can also be wonderful.
As a band, Tall Ships are a force to be reckoned with, from songwriting prowess to sheer walls of sound, their craft is something to be not just enjoyed but savoured. In terms of comparison and trajectory, it seems most apt to refer to their contemporaries in Foals. From the slightly bizarre beginnings of the first release, to the vast and emotive soundscapes of the middle years, to the anthemic indie rock of today. The parallels are there, and given the calibre of the music on 'Impressions' and everything else before, hopefully the crowds will gather in ever increasing numbers for this ever-impressive quartet.