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Album Review: Impressions by Tall Ships

Brighton’s Tall Ships release their long-awaited second album Impressions on 31st March via Fat Cat Records. It’s a record borne through several years of difficult gestation; of ill health and financial uncertainties, disconcerting false starts and feeling like it could all collapse at any moment. In the four years since the band released their debut album Everything Touching in October 2012 to an initial period of hype that saw them championed by the BBC and NME, selling out shows across the UK including London’s Scala, and headlining the BBC Introducing Stage at Reading and Leeds Festival, events for the band began to take a turn for the worse that would require an uphill struggle to set right.

“It all just crumbled away for a little while,” says frontman Ric Phethean. After five years of hard graft building toward Everything Touching, of industry plaudits and ever-growing audiences, they found themselves with no management and no label, forced to confront the fact it all could’ve been a false start. A lesser band would have packed it in and moved on; that band would not be Tall Ships. “We were emotionally, physically and financially spent. We needed a break for a while to pay off debts we’d accumulated, recover from health issues and simply do our own thing.”

Impressions is the archetypical DIY album of overcoming diversity and everything life can throw at you. It’s an album that revels in the unpredictable – take second track ‘Will To Life’ as the perfect example – being able to jump from the fragile and affecting to all out anthemic alt rock moments. Phethean describes Impressions as, “the indentations that are left in us from the pressure and the bashing we get whilst being alive. Life can be an incredibly difficult thing at times and the tragic events, joyous events and tender moments all leave their marks upon us.”

Coming in on the lighter side of alt rock, this is a version of Tall Ships that retains the swagger of their debut but have simultaneously grown and created an album that sounds distinctively more grown up and more adult. ‘Petrichor’ is slightly reminiscent of early Editors albeit with a triumphant alt rock pomp thrown over the top, however it’s on the more drawn out and assured moments that Tall Ships impress. ‘Home’ excels in its moving piano led structure, while ‘Lucille’ pushes a more expansive collective sound. ‘Sea Of Blood’ should be your go to track though, delicate and deeply affecting it showcases a brave and forthright Tall Ships – wonderful stuff.

‘Meditations On Loss’ harnesses the band’s anthemic alt rock sound and blends it with the quieter indie tones in and excellent hubris. Lose yourself in the defiant and uplifting ‘Lost & Found’ before ‘Day By Day’ closes out Impressions as one of the strongest and life affirming tracks on the album. A welcome return.

AD Rating 7.5/10

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