As adventurous as us human beings are, we can all admit to finding comfort in familiar surroundings. We become attached to our daily environments through a sense of belonging and no matter where we stray; we never quite leave them behind.
Newcastle five-piece Slow Decades have been detailing the forgotten edges of our urban centres and bleak coastlines for a good while now. Their self-released debut album The Frost and The Concrete garnered praise from Drowned in Sound back in 2014 for its luscious melodies and thoughtful emotive narratives. The band have never quite extended their reach beyond the North East, but in turn, it has made them more special, giving space to mature at their own rate.
Slow Decades second album Hinterlands is another insight into the hidden wonder of the everyday, gifting life to things we miss whilst gazing into the screens of our smartphones. Each track introduces an intelligent portrait of the here and now – what makes us tick and more importantly what makes us feel. “Ugly buildings punctuate my town”, sings frontman Ben Lowes-Smith as he wanders home through town on the brilliant ‘Savages’. There is much said about the city throughout Hinterlands and its big, weighty structures, imposed on the people who trample its cracked pavements. As the term generally means the remoteness of the countryside, it’s hard not to feel that the album is about escaping it all and finding solace in Mother Nature. But what comes through more, is a feeling of content and nostalgia associated with our bleak urban centres. Lowes-Smith is the type of lyricist that can make the banalest things seem beautiful, delivering tales of the everyday in a vocal that recalls the deadpan colloquialism of Guy Garvey, Morrisey and Paul Heaton.
Most tracks on Hinterlands contribute to the overall feeling of separation and loneliness within an urban jungle. Mothers Names uses the same imagery to depict a crumbling relationship, discussed in a lay-by. ‘Saturn Returning’ is a ballad about being detached, sailing along on gently tapped piano keys and a wandering clarinet melody, before becoming engulfed by the sounds of a chattering crowd. The ever-evolving ‘Windmill’ is a brilliant instrumental break which starts off solemn and introverted before screeching guitars penetrate the mould. ‘Broadcast’ sounds a lot like early Doves, anchoring the image of a broken city with the words “A burned out car beside a building site”. ‘Woven’ is one of the album’s more joyous moments, containing a lyric that spawned the album’s title “Take a chance on the Hinterlands”. It’s a track alive with optimism and hope. ‘Faded Glamour’ surges toward a huge, distorting climax echoing the slow descent into madness of the cities ‘frenzied’ inhabitants.
Slow Decades’ melancholic indie pop sound isn’t exactly ground-breaking, though it’s definitely capable of being spine-tingling. Even though it’s main concern is the drudgery of the everyday, Hinterlands feels more like a poetic ode to the surroundings we sometimes choose to ignore but will always remain a part of.