Magnolia is the tenth studio album (arguably ninth depending how you categorise 2006’s What We Have Sown) by sometimes progressive, always indie, rock band The Pineapple Thief. Although switching to the Kscope label in 2008 to join peers Anathema, Steven Wilson and North Atlantic Oscillation helped boost their fan base, the band from Somerset continue to exist well under the radar. Since 2010’s Someone Here Is Missing, which was firmly rooted in hard rock, The Pineapple Thief have been trying to integrate these influences into their often mellow arrangements.
Magnolia achieves just this; finding the balance between sonic beauty and the adrenaline of distorted guitars and loud drums. In fact many tracks show both of these sides within their play time. Breathe clatters through its intro and chorus with a menace rarely heard from singer Bruce Soord, whilst its verses dance around reverberating chords. The same can be said with Sense of Fear, where its droning verse contrasts heavily with a tumultuous intro that builds from a fuzz guitar riff into powerful chords and a soaring, effect-tampered lead.
In an effort to achieve this balance, Soord has introduced strings heavily into his music, emulating his Kscope contemporaries Anathema. Don’t Tell Me is a symphony of cataclysmic emotion featuring string swells that send shivers up your spine. The deep rasp of cellos and the plod of a double bass focus Soord’s saddened vocals on Seasons Past and combine beautifully with keys and snare rolls, whilst strings provide weight to title track’s dream-like haze. The One You Left To Die begins as a standard alt rock track, but it is the string stabs and swells, as well as the incredible dynamics and ‘fake’ build ups, that transform this song into a magnificent, orchestral-like piece.
Despite a new emphasis on the heavier elements of rock, this record still presents tracks filled with melancholy that remind of their earlier records. From Me, which is the shortest track and possibly the saddest too, is a soundtrack for a rain-soaked movie, as stripped back piano chords combine with crying violins and Soord’s ‘Thom Yorke’-esque wail. Similarly, A Loneliness cycles through minor chords and anguished vocal refrains, marching the song towards its heart-breaking conclusion.
Perhaps where Soord manages to combine the two styles most powerfully is within openers Simple As That and Alone At Sea. The former is packed with vocal hooks that act to connect the oscillating guitar arpeggios of the subdued verses with the soaring guitar-driven chorus. Meanwhile, Alone At Sea lets the four-piece unleash their instruments during several bridge sections, before returning to the track’s gorgeous verse-chorus structure that is based around a pulsating riff and a vocal melody.
If 2012’s All The Wars showed the band growing and developing with this dual-pronged style, then Magnolia portrays a band who have blossomed into this format. Whilst there are no definitively progressive tracks on display here, the unique arrangements of rock, beauty and orchestral elements will provide a sense of familiarity with the genre, despite single tracks having more in common with standard pop or indie rock acts.
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