Phantom Limb - The Pines Album Review
Phantom Limb are a Bristolian band who make music from a bygone age, when you could freely mix blues, country and gospel without fear of being pigeon-holed. Led by Yolanda Quartey, a singer who has worked as backup for the likes of Dizzee Rascal, Will Young and fellow Bristolians Massive Attack, the band fuse together whatever genre they please to make thoroughly accessible pop. Pop music that unfortunately no one else is making.
With absolutely no disrespect to the rest of the band, the star of the show is obviously the impressive vocal talent of Ms Quartey. She keenly carries a note to a high standard, much more so than most present singers. That said the album is hardly a solo effort and the superb musicianship form the rest of the band serves as the Oscar-worthy supporting cast.
For a group who are typically described as a soul meets country band the album opener, the titular 'The Pines,' has a rather Union Station backed sound. The plucking of the banjo combined with Yolanda's voice makes it not too unlike an Alison Kraus track played in a gospel choir. The way the track builds from the simple strumming and keyboard signature to the chorus before being let down again is exemplary Americana. The whole thing really slows down from there on as the album begins to develop a more sombre tone. The sobriety reaches a high point at 'Hallow Eyes,' whose lone drumbeat encapsulates you in its solitude until it is joined by the gloom of the slide guitar and piano. The cycle of despair is finally broken once 'Hallow Eyes' has finished, with 'Missy' giving the album a much needed injection of cheer.
The band pulls off upbeat as well as they depress, and although the band does tend to stick to a more solemn sound, you feel as though the album does require some more optimism. The album does start to grate somewhat after a few listens and whilst the performances from the band are impressive throughout, their sound is not distinctive and becomes tires after a while. Their sound may seem lost in time somewhere near the eighties, but we are still familiar with it.
This is still reasonable pop music and can be enjoyed in consideration; afternoons on BBC Radio 2 would be an ideal home for the group, alongside such country and folk revivalists as Mumford and Sons. The band are notorious for their emphatic live shows and it would be a shame to see a band like this not achieve some prominence, regardless of their predictive of their sound.