Nicholas Thorburn has an impressive résumé. In the last 10 years, he’s moved from the lo-fi aesthetics of The Unicorns to the quirky indie-pop of Islands, and recently the ‘doom-wop’ of new project Mister Heavenly. Given that their debut is scheduled for an August release, no-one was expecting a surprise solo release from their co-frontman, yet here it is, at the moment available for whatever price you choose (although by paying $10, you can also get a download of companion release I am an EP).
Musically, the album bears similarities to Islands’ Vapours, or Beck’s Modern Guilt, with synthesizers underpinning gentle strums of guitar. However, Attic is much sparser than Diamonds’ previous projects, giving his songs a new atmosphere where the lyrics can get an equal amount of attention to the music. The lyrics seem to show more of a desire of Thorburn’s to project his personality into the music. The release says a lot about his thoughts at the moment; no promotion, save a couple of tweets, telling listeners ‘not to get their hopes up’ and to ‘be gentle’ shows a man worries about releasing his first solo and most personal work to date. He needn’t worry though, because the album is arguably his most effective and engaging. Tracks such as Used to Be Funny reflect his self doubt, while he can still paint a vivid picture of silent plane crashes and climactic gun fights on Word Was Swords. The themes of doubt and paranoia, as well as the sparse instrumentation come to a head on The Vaccine, a waltz where synths, guitars, and drum machines collide to form the perfect platform for Diamonds’ tongue-twisting refrain. From there, the album detours into a melancholy via You Must Be Choking, as sudden bursts of sound make it feel close to cathartic, before calming and taking an altogether happier tone, both musically and lyrically, as shown in Dream, Dream, Dream’s gorgeous harmonies and lullaby lyrics. The album seems to come to an acceptance on the final track, Fade Out, on which the sound seems bigger and fuller than the other tracks. Thorburn’s dedication to lyrical themes and engrossing music makes this one of the albums to listen to with the lights out and no distractions.
On listening to EP, the sister release, it seems clear why the tracks on here didn’t make the album cut. While it retains the lyrical style and quality of Attic (in particular the brilliance of BLINDS), the tracks diverge both from the central themes of the album, and in music, including some grandiose, almost new wave-esque moments on tracks such as BLUE SMOKE. Nonetheless, while a little lacking in the ambience of Attic, it retains its own upbeat qualities on the instrumental ethiopium and dreamy closer CHROME CODA performs almost as good at lulling the listener to sleep than Fade Out. It’s unlikely that an EP released at the exact same time as an album can hope to best it, but unlike many, EP doesn’t seem like a rushed afterthought, more like its own release, able to stand up without its big brother.
84 % / 81 %