I’m unashamedly going to come out first sentence and say that Thee Deadtime Philharmonic’s Estate of the Heart is an absolute work of art and possibly my album of the year. I’m beyond cynical whenever someone says that in the first three months and dismiss it, but if this doesn’t end up at the top of my list then it will have been one hell of a year for new music around here.
This is a proper, well planned out album. For sure you can take your favourite track and listen to it out of sequence without issue, but it is well worth locking yourself away and listening to it from start to finish, uninterrupted. Then a second time, just to make sure. The flow of the whole collection undulates smoothly with no jarring changes between songs, and some entertaining skits in between various tracks which takes its samples from what sounds like old movies and interviews relevant to the lyrical content and concept of the album.
Musically we start with Protected featuring MC Tanzanite who provides additional insight and toasting vocals to a reggae feel section halfway through the song. Thing is, it started out as a solid indie banger. There’s beautiful dub-esque bass lines thrown in with a typical minimal feel and clean guitar sounds bringing the dynamic of the verses right down so that when the distortion and brass section kicks in the choruses gain real punch and bite. The bass across the album doesn’t come to the forefront all that often, but spends most of its life walking all over the chords instead of root note plodding along. If you get yourself get truly lost in it, you’ll be impressed with its versatility. Vocals are generally the most important thing in the whole mix, understandably, but there’s some really interesting mixing and additional synths and samples used without elbowing out any other aspect. Lots of extensive metallic reverb just on the cusp of reasonable – its lovely.
Idiot Village starts so peacefully, spacious heart-felt vocals detailing growing up in a dead and dying town. Backing vocals creeping in towards the end, soft and subtle. The following track Moths has more pace to it and older indie influences shine through here – their general style has the structure and observation of Pulp with the delivery and passion of Ultrasound. Moths, again, has the off-beat reggae/ska syncopation kick in and out seamlessly and also showcases the solid percussion work on the kit.
Many of the songs have been around for well over five years now, but lyrically still scream relevance. The whole album covers a range of political observations. CCTV cameras in areas where high crime is still rife – documentation isn’t solving the issues; Thatcher’s Conservatives closing down mining communities wholesale, leading to generational unemployment and increase in illegal drug use; it’s one long critique of growing up in the grim North, but from the point of view of a generation or two down from the main events themselves.
Estate of the Heart is released on 14 February 2018.
You can catch Thee Deadtime Philharmonic at The Hairy Dog on 24 March 2018.
You can find Thee Deadtime Philharmonic on Facebook.