Today, the word masterpiece gets thrown around carelessly. It would be a great disservice, however, to call British band The Maccabees’ newest album, Given to the Wild, anything other than a perfect piece of art — a creative triumph.
Though most albums are lucky to receive praise for poetic lyrics or the sultry sounds of the singer’s voice, Given to the Wind is a rare combination of catchy tunes backed by beautiful, sometimes haunting, lyrics that mix together to create a concoction of pure awe. It might sound hyperbolic to give such a compliment, but Given to the Wind delivers.
The album begins with an introduction reminiscent of Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which almost serves as an ode to childhood. “Given to the Wind (Intro)” is a dark track, one that sets the tone for the album with the faded moans of lead singer Orlando Weeks.
This eerie vibe continues with “Child,” one of the highlights of the album, which reminds wary listeners that lyrics can inspire and actually mean something.
Poetry seems to be the only way to describe it: “Never as a child / Would you give this time of day / You would take it from the shadows / And you give it another name.” Combined with Weeks’ haunting vocals and instrumentals, including horns and guitar combined with a strong drum base, the song continues the album’s impressive start.
The album stays strong with “Feel to Follow,” a pleasant little ditty that almost sounds like a reggae tune washed down with some English tea. But like most of the band’s songs, the varying sounds drift in and out throughout the duration of the track. Though it starts out sounding like a more-upbeat version of a tune from indie band The xx, “Feel to Follow” soon transforms into an epic song, perfectly suited for a dramatic film score.
But the album isn’t all fun and games. “Forever I’ve Known” strays from the album’s upbeat start and takes a dark turn. Lyrics like “I’m a child to your voice / To the sound, oh, it can eat me alive,” makes the longing in Weeks’ voice seem physically tangible.
Similarly, “Heave” maintains a dark edge as it slowly grows from silence into a rustling chorus of harmonies reminiscent of the very best from Bon Iver.
“Given to the Wind,” however, soon turns back to lighter fare. Dramatic lyrics pair brilliantly with catchy beats, creating a solid balance. “Pelican” amps the energy up even more: The leading single packs a punch with a rhythm that recalls classic Queen.
The hits continue like a wave building up to an inevitable crash on the shore; “10 Go” is an emotional roller coaster that you’ll want to ride again and again. The sprawling notes create an epic sound filled to the brim, comparable to that of a cinematic wonder.
With an album as strong as Given to the Wild, it can be sincerely jarring when missteps occur. “Unknow,” a much more sinister addition to the album, is a prime example. Though Weeks continues to show off impressive vocals, the unusual guitar riffs and female background vocals cause the song to feel out of place compared to the rest of the album. It’s a great song on its own, but “Unknow” simply feels unnatural in the mix.
“Grew Up at Midnight,” on the other hand, works perfectly as a conclusion to the album. An ominous ode to childhood, “Grew Up at Midnight” provides one last bang, and genuinely inspires excitement over the prospect of seeing this band on tour.
Given to the Wind will most likely be The Maccabees’ breakout album even though this is the band’s third full-length effort. Somehow, the band manages to sound both epic and intimate at the same time, attaining the sort of balance that allowed Kings of Leon’s Only by the Night to be so successful back in 2008. Though the sounds and lyrics are intricate, The Maccabees manage to make it all sound so effortless.