Friday, 23 August 2013

Favourite Album: The Place We Ran From by Tired Pony

The first of a series of articles (originally published in the ‘Fight Club’ issue of Portsmouth Point magazine) exploring favourite music albums. Today, George Neame explains why Tired Pony’s ‘The Place We Ran From’ is his favourite album.

 Tired Pony is the brainchild of Gary Lightbody, frontman of the more well-known alternative rock band Snow Patrol. The idea of a ‘country-tinged supergroup’ came to him in a bar in Ireland many years ago, but it was only in 2010 that this became reality. Enlisting members from bands such as R.E.M and Belle and Sebastian, The Place We Ran From was recorded in less than a week and peaked at number 17 in the UK Albums Chart.

Opener ‘Northwestern Skies’ begins with a subtle, echoing guitar strum, before becoming overlain with a slow drum beat and piercing acoustic twangs, giving it an instant sense of nostalgia and simplicity, one that screams ‘Americana’ and sounds somewhat foreign but somewhat familiar. The tune is throbbing, pulsating, and instantly lulls the listener into a state of calmness and serenity. Even the lyrics (‘There’s no answers in the tempest, just a million other questions, so just let it take you over, so that we can learn our lesson’) seem to be saying ‘take a seat, watch the world go by; what will be will be’. ‘Get on the Road’ follows, recruiting female American vocalist and actor Zooey Deschanel to sing the lyrics in unison with Lightbody, an exquisite and harmonious effect that amplifies the passion of the song.

‘Point Me at Lost Islands’ and single ‘Dead American Writers’ are shorter, snappier and more upbeat tunes that transform the album from a tranquil love letter to a euphonic blast of hi-hats, rhythmic guitar strums and piano riffs. Here the group show their incredible versatility, with songs that make you want to tap your feet, dance along and sing out loud. One of the most touching and poignant songs on the album, ‘Held in the Arms of Your Words’, follows an incredibly basic chord pattern, but clearly simple is sometimes best. There is little to it apart from an acoustic guitar and crooning vocals, yet this again creates a soothing, peaceful atmosphere that cumulates with the swinging, swaying repetition of the chorus. There is, at times, a sense that it will never end, accompanied by the hope that it won’t.

The second half of The Place We Ran From experiments with different styles, vocalists and tempos, but each with the same characteristic pluck of the guitar and soothing rhythm. Finally, the all-too-short ten-track album comes to a defining finale with ‘Pieces, the tone of which is set from the first thirty seconds with a stabbing bass line and drum beat. The lyrics echo chillingly until the very last line, when an epic crescendo begins to brew, an organised chaos with a clattering of pianos, drums and strained electric guitars. Undoubtedly the loudest and densest point of the album, it is also the high point, a song that transposes itself so quickly into something completely new and novel, a final release of energy in an album that does nothing if not calm the soul.

Tired Pony’s debut is undoubtedly the greatest album ever. It is innovative, smart and passionate, and features some of the most expressive lyrics ever written, including ‘There isn’t one magical word, but a carnival of them instead’ and ‘They can’t have got that far, ‘cos I can still see some swinging locks’.  Just sit back, relax and get swept away by the peaceful beauty.

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