Half Formed Things are an Edinburgh based quartet, whose debut album To Live In The Flicker is a scrapbook of compact, intensely inquisitive and dense stories.
Over the course of ten tracks, the band open a small window on ten lives. While the glimpse we get of each story is often brief, it is heavy with layering and meaning.
Few songs act as a better example than opening track ‘The Flicker‘. We hear wedding bells, followed by a tale of infidelity and the consequent scrabbling for stability and belonging in a suddenly alien world. There’s a huge amount to process and and digest in four and a half short minutes, from the perfectly sullen delivery of the vocals to the gradual sense of distress which crescendos with the instrumentation. You can already tell that this is an album which rewards listeners who keep coming back for more.
If ‘The Flicker‘ is the album’s heavy anchor, then ‘February‘ is a lighter affair. The drums and piano skip along in a sprightly fashion, and the chorus is genuinely quite catchy. The middle eight is definitely the high point though. A switch up in the percussion imbues the whole track with added tension, drawing the listener in before a chaotic outro which is reminiscent of early Muse songs.
Given the sound of the four tracks which come before it, ‘The Apostate‘ seems at first quite out of place on To Live In The Flicker. Perhaps it should come as no surprise though, given that an apostate is someone who renounces a religious or political belief. Half Formed Things are here purposely departing from the musical tone they established in the first half of the album. It is a welcome change – showcasing a more laid back, expressive side to the band which goes a long way to distilling any first listen nerves that the album might become one dimensional.
On ‘The One You Hate‘, the drums provide a hypnotic, looping backbone for a breathtaking instrumental track. The piano melodies are enthralling and dramatic, and thunderous guitars add much needed impact to the middle section. One of the most impressive pieces of music on the album without a doubt.
The last track of To Live In The Flicker is ‘The Calm‘, where once again I find myself comparing the band to 1999-2003 era Muse. There’s something about the wailing trumpets, driving pianos, and marching drums which feels very familiar. It’s good though, a fitting climax to an album which keeps you guessing which every track.
Sounds Like… Nothing else to come out of Scotland in 2019