erasing clouds

The Windmills, Now Is Then

reviewed by dave heaton

As blown away as I get by music that aims high, that tries to reach for some new level of existence (think free jazz, Sigur Ros, etc), there's something so comforting about a simple well-written song. And I don't mean "simple" in any derogatory sense; there's unexplainable magic that can happen when the right person picks up an instrument, writes a song, and plays it. As impressed as I am by innovation, I'm equally impressed when a straightforward song knocks my down by being touching, beguiling, pretty, insightful and so on.

The 11 songs on The Windmills' new album Now Is Then have all of those qualities and more. It's a completely unassuming album…at first it just glides right past you as a pleasant but conventional pop/rock album, but the more you listen the more you're completely absorbed by Roy Thirlwall and band's songs. It's the lyrics-these are love songs, essentially, but contain genuinely human feelings and images, a feat that shouldn't be underacknowledged-but also the hooks, the textures (and by "textures" here I mean not sweeping waves of sound or electronic beats, but the gorgeous sounds and feelings you can get from guitars when they're played a certain way), and the way the songs hang together with a certain feeling. It's a mood of hope and melancholy, lust and meditation-delivered as much through the way the words are sung or the notes are played as the content of the lyrics themselves.

Now Is Then improves on their fine, slightly more melancholy debut album Sunlight just by being better…that sounds like an idiotic statement, I know, but the songs on Now Is Then just hit me in an even deeper way than on the previous album, yet it's hard to pinpoint what accounts for that besides the improvement that sometimes naturally comes with time. In any case, Now Is Then is a rich, deeply rewarding experience masquerading as just another pop album, from the opening come-on "Ever to Exist" (as in "you are the most delicate, beautiful, innocent human being ever to exist") through to the spellbinding closer "Time Machine."


Issue 18, December 2003

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