We Steal Flyers – Applecart – Album Review
Could I BE any more PROUD of the fact that we’re listening to We Steal Flyers once again? NOT A CHANCE!
There are but a few bands & artists out there that have truly helped shape and define a lot of what I do here at sleepingbagstudios – and We Steal Flyers definitely fall into that category. Not even three-full years ago…on June 21st of 2013 – our site expanded into doing album-reviews for the very first time, which is now the most popular aspect of our homepage and has been for quite some time now. But it all had to have started somewhere…and like all things that become repetitive by choice – that first experience has got to be a positive one or it’ll have little to no chance of continuing on.
That first positive experience we ever had here at SBS through reviews, was indeed, the very band in review here today – We Steal Flyers. If you look closely at the numbers…you’ll see that the site itself has gone on to roughly post-up on average, twenty-five or more reviews in a calendar month since that time and we’re fully expecting to complete our 1000th review here in 2016. Right now, here in today’s review – it has been exactly 819 reviews since we first discovered the music of Derek and Shaggy in We Steal Flyers – and I’ve personally been a fan ever since. Great sincere songwriters in this band…and Shaggy (aka Jason, aka Shagpile) even went on to become part of our top-ten for the year with his last solo album, finishing respectably in a tie for third-place according to our dedicated readers/listeners and certainly at the top of the pack of nominees for music our fans responded to. So…I’m expecting goodness going into this new album Applecart from our original-inspiration to even continue DOING reviews, just to be clear!
Their new album, now nearly three-years later as I’ve mentioned, finds We Steal Flyers shifting brightly between two main gears on Applecart. You get the more folksy, up-tempo rhythms and grooves – and you get the signature melodic, more emotional aspects of the music they make; they do both very well. It might depend on your own personal taste as to which you’ll want to come back to more often…but you’ll also notice that the even spread of their ideas make for a great overall listen of this new record.
Case in point, is my own set of ears. While I appreciated “Sidecars & Sideshows Part Two” and the title-tune “Applecart” – for me, the album finds the emotion and sounds I’m looking for more closely in its third-track, “Get Well Soon.” Clearly they all possess the familiar WSF magic however…you can definitely hear that in “Sidecars & Sideshows Part Two” which kind of creates a beginning to this record that takes you right back to where we left off with them nearly three years ago. And that’s COOL to me! I thought that was a really neat aspect of this album…and I think that “Applecart” goes on to further the point with a more full & somewhat thicker, more defined sound that shows how far the duo has come in their combination of talent. Vocals sound sweet, percussion is vibrant throughout the background through handclaps and…and…and well whatever it is that they’re using to create the beat! It could be a drum of some sort…it could be an empty cup…a block perhaps…whatever it is, sounds great against the gentle voices and inviting energy of their title-track.
It was no secret just how much I had appreciated the more melancholy and emotional music that I had found on Shagpile’s solo-record…and you can feel the echo and signature stamp of that atmosphere on “Get Well Soon.” One of my favorite tunes that I think I’ve ever discovered from We Steal Flyers, this gentle beauty is just as comforting as it might be sad…”Get Well Soon” is a real gem of human-emotion in song. Unexpectedly, strings and an accordion bust into the final minute…nothing here takes away from the beautiful moment this song is – but it certainly goes a long, long way to proving you never know what to expect out of these two.
“Nowhere To Sail” immediately makes an impact with a much thicker and all-encompassing sound than the isolated hollow of “Get Well Soon.” Excellent vocals flow perfectly through this song, which to me, sounds inarguably like what I’d presume the ‘single’ to be…or at least the ‘lead-single.’ I think “Nowhere To Sail” not only has a rich fullness to the sound in the production, it’s just a flat-out great song. Powerful hooks in the chorus make this track a real lighters-up moment in music…it’s a seriously stunning song that seems altogether too short at not quite three & a half minutes long. I think this melody has a tremendous amount of accessibility to it and real qualities to the writing that will speak to many people out there.
With the roll they’ve been on so far and the way the intricate guitar begins “English Tea (Song For Grandad),” were it not such a sweetly-intentioned song you’d nearly swear they were showing off at this point! LOVE that opening; the song to follow doesn’t let you down in the slightest either. Almost sounds a little like what you’d expect Billy Joel might have sounded like if he’d picked up a guitar instead of playing piano. The heartfelt lyrics of “English Tea (Song For Grandad)” absolutely resonate with me…my grandfather was English as well and just recently passed on at the ripe-old age of 102. This song really speaks to that specialness of a relationship that sometimes you realize you barely know…but the parts that you do know, you know well and love dearly. The special times that we get before we ever realize they’ll be gone one day and the innocence of that enjoyment, love and true feeling of family. Wonderful song and I know they’ve really put their heart into this one, you can hear it.
I think I found myself appreciating the lyrics of “Time Flies” perhaps more than any other aspect until the harmonies of the chorus begin. It’s a tough one to really stand-out…you can hear that this is probably a guarantee in the live-set of WSF as it might be one of the easier to pull off with just the two of them…but it seems to be missing just a little something…a dash of cinnamon…I don’t really know WHAT…but something. In comparison to the rest, “Time Flies” sounds a little flat when measured up to the rest, but in its own right, still a good song.
Reminding us that “Hos!” and “Heys” were born in the pubs throughout the UK and not just something that The Lumineers have invented – this would be an example of We Steal Flyers at their entertaining best while in that ‘other’ gear that’s in the more folksy-side of what they create. There’s still appeal to a guy like me…it’s not a musical-atrocity like anything created by Great Big Sea or anything like that…BUT…it’s still pretty damn close to a sea-shanty of sorts. WSF walks a fine-line for me personally when they head into pirate-terrain…but show me a song that’s all about pirates or pirating and I’d more than likely show you a shocked-face in return…one that had yet to ever hear that song you’re playing. As much as I love me some Jason & Derek of We Steal Flyers having the most fun as they can have in a real audience-participatory kinda-tune…WHAT do they expect from me when they put “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring” right after it? Any mind I might have paid to the ol’ pirate-tune of theirs just heads right off the plank once “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring” begins. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaar mateys – thar, it’s been said to ye both!
But c’mon people…I’m not crazy. As much as I’m having fun with them and poking fun at my own non-pirate loving ways…what else can be said other than “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring” is absolutely stunning? Between this song and “I Love You” that follows – these tender moments become real highlights as the album finds a second-wind here towards the end in its final-third. “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring” in many ways…is nearly as simplified as you can create a song to BE…but listen to the absolute magic in every note and the incredible way this one is sung. Absolutely wonderful. I was convinced that perhaps I had found one that I felt even more strongly about than “Get Well Soon” from earlier on…and almost believed for a moment that with only two songs left, the odds of We Steal Flyers pulling out another sparkling diamond were slim…I was thinking they’d follow up with another energetic pub-song. Instead, they release the magic in another stripped-down, delicate melody called “I Love You.” And while it might start all laidback & chill…it finds a tremendous second-life of its own with the addition of piano and harmonies in a bright & beautiful chorus as it heads towards the album’s final track.
“Sailorman” was what I thought ended their new record on what might be the best blend of those two main-gears of We Steal Flyers…along with a little more pointed-intensity. The last thing I’d say is that it’s any ‘darker’ of a tune…but I could hear people hearing it that way. They put new ideas into this final track, which sounds like it includes some filters on the vocals, some background effects and perhaps even some subtle synth here and there. It sounds a lot more like a ‘journey’ of a song than perhaps we’ve heard so far on the record, and it leans heavily on that folk-aspect of the WSF sound but with some sparkling, unique and genuine emotion through the vocals we’ve yet to hear in this way so far. I thought it was a completely solid ending for what’s been another stellar album from a very reliable duo.
That being said…it’s also an album for the old-schoolers out there. The people like ME that are used to playing an album from front to back without skipping to our favorite songs…and that also tend to leave their music on repeat. So when there’s a long-pause of silence…I’m no longer fooled by myself…I know I’m not just waiting for the album to begin again – that elusive ‘hidden track’ is coming! And it’s with saying that, that I say, fully, with LOVE, what in the all heck were these guys thinking when they chose to cover the children’s nursery rhyme “Hush Little Baby” after making us wait for something else?
I’m kidding…to a degree. I mean, I’ve said it a million times…we only get so many opportunities to cover a song in the course of a musician’s lifetime…do I think it’s a strange choice that they’ve chosen this? HELL YES I do – but I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say that it’s at the very least, the best way I’ve ever personally heard this song exist. I’d take the We Steal Flyers rendition over any other I’ve heard…so I guess there’s that?
So I’m not one for nursery-rhymes! I’ve never claimed my opinion is the only valid one out there anyhow – so go find another if you’re all about rockin’ the cradle! For me, it’s the rest of Applecart that held it’s true appeal…last thing I’d do is hold a ‘hidden track’ against them – those are notorious hangouts for the bizarre, strange and weird sides of many a band. But I’d have to say, without a doubt, the duo of Jason and Derek of We Steal Flyers are still at their brightened best, still have a ton to offer – and I truly think that some of these tunes on Applecart are without question the best we’ve heard from them so far. Glad to hear they’re still on the right path and still on their way up…and stoked to have them back at our pages after what seems like so very long ago now!
Will they be back before I complete another 819 reviews from here? I can certainly hope so!
Stay tuned dear readers…stay tuned!
Find out more about We Steal Flyers at their official page: http://www.westealflyers.co.uk/
And here’s a look at the duo responsible for it all having some fun in the studio – check it out!
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