The first thing to note about Guy Garvey’s solo album, Courting The Squall, is that it is not an Elbow album. The absence of his fellow band mates has allowed him to have completely free reign, clearly putting his own unique stamp on his music. I have to admit, being a massive Elbow fan, I did, at first, find this quite difficult. Yet on repeated listening, I discovered some hidden gems and the real essence of Garvey himself.
In typical Garvey style, this is an album about love, drink and girlfriends. In a recent interview with the Guardian, he was quoted saying, ‘I measure my life in girlfriends.’ This however is not a criticism; Garvey’s dream-like and homely voice is filled with nostalgia, transporting the listener to the past of Garvey’s love life. The intoxicating jazz piano in ‘Electricity’ accompanied with a double whammy of both Garvey and Americana singer, Jolie Holland, transforms the scene of a dreary foggy morning walk to Uni into the image of a sad and slow dance in a smoky bar (maybe I’ve been watching too much Strictly though!). The title track of the album, ‘Courting The Squall’ is arguably the most Elbow-like song, the bass-line being cleverly contrasted to the beautiful scales and arpeggios played on the harp. The instrumentality echoes the lyrics, as Garvey reflects on the struggle to maintain balance between living for work and living for love: “I’m the son of a saint and a leader of men / And I’m neither of them but I’m yours.” No one can argue that more than anything, Guy Garvey is a poet; the complementary arrangement of his bittersweet lyrics against the sad undertones of the harp creates a utopia within itself. Garvey continues his experimentation through tracks such as ‘Harder Edges’. The track is funky and upbeat, a nice uplifting break amongst the more fanciful tracks such as ‘Juggernaut’ and ‘Three Bells’.
Courting The Squall is clearly an experiment, Garvey’s chance to try out a number of different genres and ideas. It isn’t an Elbow album, but it’s definitely a Guy album. The combination of Garvey’s charming voice and his sentimental lyrics have the ability to transport any listener to a different time and place. So sit back, relax, and let the music take you away.