As Guy Garvey’s first album produced away from the confines of his usual band Elbow, Courting the Squall is a truly endearing piece of work. Simultaneously taking elements of his work with Elbow and combining it with a new batch of influences, similar in style but different enough to keep it interesting and personal. Suitably diverse without alienating anybody in the process, with some truly choice cuts that make the album truly worth listening to.
Courting the Squall makes good use of a few different influences straight off the bat. There’s a heavy blues influence to the swaggering beat and overdriven rhythms of Angela’s Eyes that gives the album’s opening moment a kick of energy that works well even in contrast to the following slower tracks; most notably the chugging minimalism of the title track. Harder Edges hints at the jazz side of the album with its frantic drum beat, countering Garvey’s slower vocals but perfectly complimenting the following rush of amazingly composed horns in the last third of the song; Yesterday straddles both sides, with a slow blues influence in its beat and a jazz-tinged bass line playing alongside it.
The influence-straddling Yesterday also leads into the album’s most unexpected and affecting moment; Electricity is a truly traditional jazz track, from its shuffling drum beat and sombre saxophone accompaniment to the vocals of Garvey and his accompanying guest vocalist, Jolie Holland; less a jazz standard and more of a noir track. Even with the accompanying jazz tracks, it truly has its own unique identity on the album.
While the songs surrounding it are all enjoyable, the likes of Angela’s Eyes, Harder Edges and Electricity are rarely met; Yesterday and the horn-heavy jazz rock style of Belly of the Whale are close, but not quite as affecting. Garvey’s found some styles that truly fit his personal character though, and these higher centrepieces for Courting the Squall are complimented nicely by their surroundings, making for an extremely enjoyable album overall: A familiar yet fresh piece of work.