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Album Review: Josh Record – Pillars

2 min read

Brixton-based singer-songwriter Josh Record has certainly accomplished a lot in his 26 years. In between running a community music studio for underprivileged kids, volunteering in orphanages and slums in Nairobi, helping victims of crime and domestic abuse as part of Victim Support, and casually driving from London to Turkey in a minibus and then from New York to Alaska, Record has managed to write, record and release his debut album Pillars.

Josh Record - PillarsThere’s something about this album that captures the selflessness and goodness of Record’s charitable pursuits. Perhaps it’s the choral construction of his vocal arrangements, or the hymnal quality of his song writing, but there’s a definite neo spirituality that really stands out. Reminiscent of Bon Iver, Ben Howard and Fleet Foxes, opening track Bones establishes the atmosphere of the whole album. His characteristic, enraptured vocal harmonies and expertly contoured writing are demonstrated from the outset and ease us into a much more ‘pop-sounding’, but equally euphoric, Pictures in the Dark.

Alaska is one of the standouts on the album. The admittedly cliché chordal structure is overcome by the stunning layers of echoing vocals, as well as Record’s supernatural talent for painting a vivid landscape with his harmonic arrangements.

From here, however, Pillars feels somewhat laboured and lost. For Your Love is genuinely uplifting, and Bed of Thorns is redeemed by its atmospheric church-like choir accompaniment, but there is something lacking in their delivery that makes the middle tracks quite forgettable in comparison to the other exultant and climactic pieces.

The short but incredibly sweet interlude Summer has to Come puts the album back on track. The only downside is that Record’s stunning falsetto floating above lingering synths only lasts for 38 seconds. From here the rest of the album goes from strength to strength. Wonder is a stand out in terms of melodic writing – Record surprises us with a flattened third, switching easily between major and minor modes that perfectly fit the exciting unfamiliarity of ‘wondering’.

Finally is another incredibly memorable track. One of the most simple, yet most beautiful songs of the album, Record’s rawer vocals effortlessly capture the baptismal themes of death and rebirth: I was parched at the bed of the river / Finally I see nothing alive to quench my desire. The closing track Winter Comes sums up all the strengths of Josh Record’s debut, and that eerie but comforting atmosphere that sits somewhere between sacred and secular; spirituality and reality. Although the final a’cappella melody does away with the vocal harmonies Record is renowned for, it is somehow a perfect way to end the album.

Regardless of the pretty, but unconvincing ‘filler’ tracks at its centre, Pillars is a strong debut that showcases Josh Record’s growing ability for climactic composition, beautifully layered arrangements, and spine-chilling vocal harmonies.