Elliot Minor have momentarily shelved their pseudo-classical bombast to offer up not just an acoustic album, but an acoustic reworking of previous album ‘Solaris’. Beginning with as much gloomy atmospherics as anything with ‘The Dancer’, the ominous melodic drive throbs and swells beneath plaintive vocals. There is a stripped-back feel here, made clear by the presence of choppy acoustic guitars and finger-picked melodies beneath the vocal harmonies.
‘I Believe’ picks up where its predecessor left off, doing “this is an acoustic album” to death with the tinny strumming of an acoustic guitar, leaving the intrigue to the admittedly beautiful piano melodies. The vocals are sensitive and bleating in the modern emo-pop-punk style characterised by many an American alt-rock band, but when placed in quieter surroundings, they reveal little hook beyond hackneyed lyricism and some heavy harmonic interplay. ‘Electric High’ is notably less Americanised, with a debt to britpop indie rock in its bouncy rhythms which unfortunately don’t lift the song so much as place it in another different rut, but beneath the contrived song writing there are flickers of enjoyment in the tumbling piano melodies and there’s no denying the sing-a-long quality of the non-threatening chorus. The sing-a-long aspect rises again with the undeniably pretty and well-arranged title track ‘Solaris’. The orchestration and pacing of the instruments is indeed worthy of praise, but the whole thing feels somehow sanitised and doesnâ€™t quite compel the listener despite the musical efforts.
Suspiciously enough, there is a heavy synth presence on ‘Coming Home’. The lush arrangement implies a strong Beatles influence, but the demon of auto-tune and poor electronic instrumentation prevents this from being a sparkling sugar hit of alt-pop rock indulgence that it begs to be, instead feeling simultaneously over and under-done, which is a shame because this could easily have been the stand-out track in its lavishness. As for ‘Shiver’, the layered instrumentation and funked-out flamenco/folk/classical dance feel almost trumps the irritating processed vocals to produce something listenable, but the sheer extravagance and obvious computer magic does beg the question of how this can be called an acoustic track, and the spacey effects simply grate too much, most notably in the bridge. In direct contrast is the indifference of ‘All Along’ and ‘Discover’. No matter how heavenly-tuneful and intimately stripped-down the verses become, or how much the string sections contrive to pull at the heartstrings, the songs simply feel too overdone to be emotive in this setting and indeed too trite to appeal at all. And yes, the closer of the source album: ‘Let’s Turn This Back Around’ is as over baked as ever, with clichÃ© lyrics to end all clichÃ©s, and soaring emotive codas galore.
Elliot Minor are a band whose sound is indeed unique in its pairing of the lush with the angsty. Their sound is one that wears razorblade hairgrips in its squeaky-clean locks while playing rather fetching pop on a gleaming piano. However, this release feels almost totally pointless, as stripped of its complexity their music is shown up as largely trite and unremarkable. Perhaps releasing the bonus tracks and one or two of the better acoustic versions as an EP would have been better, as an entire album redone acoustically, especially given that in lieu of the band’s mask of bombast we are handed little more than clichÃ©, means that this repetitive and hard-to-love release simply feels like an exercise in parting fans from their cash.
Written by Rhys Milsom