For some reason, i just never got into The Cranes. They were
one of those bands that i was told i would really like: shoegazer
with high-pitched female vocals. Yup, that's what i like. And
yet, i just never got around to giving them a listen.
Well, they just released a new album, and people once again
told me i should enjoy it. So i tracked down a copy. Boy, i
am glad i did -- apparently, The Cranes are a really talented
band. Who knew?.
Basically, The Cranes feature lush instrumentation that is
heavy on the guitar. This is accompanied by the "little girl"
singing of Alison Shaw. let me discuss her voice first.
Ms. Shaw is a soprano, and her singing style invokes the feeling
of a very young girl trying to sing. It's a strange effect,
and reminds me of Regina Sosinski from Mira
or Catherine Cooper from Alison's Halo. It's a particular vocal
style accessible only to females with voices in the highest
range. I mention this because i know that it annoys some people,
and in fact Ms. Shaw's vocals are sometimes grating even to
me. This is especially true on Driving In The Sun, and
to a lesser degree on Fragile on this release. So: people
who like huskier, deeper vocal stylings should be careful when
approaching The Cranes.
I think that, for the most part, Ms. Shaw's voice is wonderfully
accompanied by the rest of the band, led by her brother Jim
Shaw. Mr. Shaw is apparently the drummer in the band, and he
turns in a nice rhythmic performance on this disc. Nice, but
subtle. The drumming never takes the center stage, nor does
it detract from the other instruments.
Aside from Ms. Shaw's vocals, the other main musical focus
of the band is the guitarwork of Mark Francombe. He creates
some luscious melodies throughout this album, most noteably
on Future Song and Driving In The Sun. Francombe
really shines on those two numbers.
However, i have yet to mention my favorite song on the disc,
Sunrise. This song starts with some slow backmasking,
which is slowly replaced by a light acoustic guitar. Alison
Shaw's voice somes in, layered so that she is singing her own
counter-melody (a lovely effect). This is a beautiful low-key
song that feels vaguely melancholy. It is the real stunner of
But really, there isn't a bad song on the disc. Most of the
album is light dreampop. The few exceptions are noteworthy.
The aptly named track Eight is a sound collage and not
a song per se. It really sounds like a field recording taken
on the upstairs balcony at Atlanta's Masquerade nightclub. Subdued
rave beats are far beneath you (the lowest layer of the club
and of the song) while something dark and loud screeches up
top (death metal at the top floor of The Masquerade?), and all
around are people talking, chatting, and having a good time.
It's really wierd to listen to this on headphones....
Everything For The Maker Of Heavenly Trousers is another
very different song for The Cranes. It's a slow keyboard based
instrumental. I like it, but it is unlike the rest of the album.
Speaking of electronica, the album also features two remixes.
The first, a remix of Fragile, adds massive amounts of
tremolo to the album's most radio-friendly song. And you know,
after the tremolo, The Cranes sound remarkably like Mazzy Star.
Wierd. The second remix is of the song Don't Wake Me Up,
the original version of which is unremarkable. The remix adds
lots of subtle keys, and it swells to a nice mellow climax in
a way that the original mix fails to do. This remix might be
my second favorite tune on the album.
Overall i would say that Future Songs is a very
nice, relaxing, dreampop album. However, people who are serious
fans have told me that this is quite different from the rest
of their music. Hmmm. I wonder what they used to sound like?
At any rate, on Future Songs i hear an accomplished
band who are both familiar with and comfortable with each other
and their instruments. The band plays seemingly effortlessly.
They make it look so easy!