With everything from deeply orchestral rock to eccentric lounge grooves, Elbow’s fifth album is easily its most diverse and complex to date.Within The Seldom Seen Kid, charming mid-tempo riffs are given a variety of treatments: acoustic shuffles, industrial crawling, and – perhaps Elbow’s strongest suit – more anthems. They’ve accomplished a lot with this album; showing off a high level of talent while flirting with the edge of radio-friendliness.
Given the increasing complexity of Elbow’s previous efforts, The Seldom Seen Kid was destined to feature some heavy mastering. Layers of effects and a serious depth to each song give the album a richness the band had yet to achieve. The opener, “Starlings”, begins with swirling noise then cuts off into a quiet, meandering rhythm interspersed by startling fanfare. The album’s manic change of moods is quickly set. “The Bones of You” is an acoustic jam that has many sharp, percussive edges while “Mirrorball” smooths it all out. Strings swoon while drums softly clod along and a piano flickers behind singer Guy Garvey’s romantic croon. “Grounds For Divorce” is one of their rawest cuts today, with its bar-room chants and hoedown rhythms that explode behind strong, gritty effects. Within the first four tracks alone, the album has the widest wingspan of any of their releases.
Throughout the remainder of the album, nifty effects and a controlled delicateness give it an enchanting exuberance. “Weather To Fly” is a slowly-cascading bedroom track with softly touched by horns and scattered background vocal effects. The empty room feel of “The Loneliness Of A Tower Crane Driver” is beautifully done and the mysterious “The Fix” is one of their most interesting songs, especially as it includes a duet with Richard Hawley. “Some Riot” has a percussion-less, emotional resonance, “On a Day Like This” has an upward-looking ballad vibe, and “Friend of Ours” finishes The Seldom Seen Kid with a gracefully quiet touch as guitars are reverbed along with a velvet cymbal and piano riff.
The Seldom Seen Kid is highly accomplished while its individual tracks go to greater depths than the band’s previous albums. It’s exquisite, endearing, and pushes modern pop-rock by elaborating on its every detail.