Rating – 5/5
“This record is a poignant tribute to humantiy’s flaws”
As we approach this year’s non-existent festival season, it can be easy to feel sombre and morose. However, whilst Bristol duo, Yard Arms, may be the ideal band to soundtrack these feelings, their new EP is sure to lift your spirits with its breath-takingly ambient atmosphere. Titled ‘Sanctuary Lines’, their new release is an accidental reflection on life in lock down. It talks about feeling adrift in the world, trapped in a recurring cycle of existence and desperate for a way out. The band is comprised of Noah Villeneuve and Billy Golding, who, in an unusual combination of garage, emo and atmospheric rock, honesty reflect on humanity and its flaws. Whilst they label themselves “melancholic pop”, there music is not purely sorrowful but inspiring; they acknowledge the world’s problems as if you should fix them.
This sentiment is immediately introduced by the opening track, Mantra. It’s lyrics seem to describe two sorts of people: those who run away from the world’s problems and those who search for change. Through Villeneuve’s rich vocals, we learn how he was inspired to enter that second universe. Essentially, the track is willing its audience to strive for a better world, and motivate others to do the same. A strong atmosphere of hope emanates through all three minutes of this song, from the hypnotic ripple of sound that initiates the track, to the moving arpeggios that form its backbone. Yet, the weight of these issues can still be felt, protruding from the chorus’ ghostly whispers of “Your my mantra”, and especially during the solemn ending to the track. Even throughout its funky guitar solo, the track remains heart-wrenching. The band are not passing this off as an easy transformation! Yet, its necessity is evident.
Noah plays with time in their next track, Silicone Crowd. The narrative leaps between the past, the present and the future, recounting a couple who keep returning to each other despite their relationship’s destiny to fail. The speaker adores the glamorous life of his partner, and longs to join their “Silicone Crowd”. Whilst he is initially proud to share the love of someone from that world, he quickly realises its falsity. Unable to tear himself away, he becomes “just one more casualty” on their quest for recognition. To reflect this, the track is filled with dreamy guitar, prominent bass and softer vocals, immediately giving an impression of nostalgia. Yet, the truth is his wistfulness is for something which never happened and never will. Unlike the previous track, the song shifts violently in mood, echoing the constantly changing status of their relationship. The chorus is a torrent of passionate energy in the form of punchy guitar chords and raucous singing, whilst the instrumental sections are unpolluted pop.
The next track is centred around the lyrics, “These four walls, make us feel so small”, which seem especially apt for our current circumstances. However, they actually refer to a less physical form of entrapment. Noah’s roars of anguish are due to a yearning for excitement. He explores how it can sometimes feel as if everyone’s lives are moving forward but yours. “Let’s fall in love again”, he cries, wishing to be part of the past once more. Its grungy guitar chords and rough vocals feel very out of place in such a tranquil record, but perhaps it was a crucial outpouring of emotion for the band. It’s definitely not what you would expect to arise from Villeneuve’s coastal writing trip! Unusually, the solo section is less animated than the rest of the track. Its more subdued melody seems to reveal that there is sadness, as well as anger, that surrounds his desperation. Yet, there is no doubt the song is a belter. You can’t help but sing along to its anthemic chorus or nod to its growling guitar, wails of feedback and pounding drums.
The final number is another of Yard Arms’ counselling sessions, this time guiding its listeners not to stray away from what makes them happy. Fables describes the world as an expansive ocean and an unexplored universe, which is easy to get lost in. In fact, the track ends with the repletion of the question, “When will we find our solace and our sanctuary lines?”, imploring us to realise that not everything in life must lead to an end goal. Overall, the track is very serene, with long instrumental sections packed with reverb and sliding strings. The final section transitions from one guitar to a bombardment of fuzzy distortion and growling vocals, not dissimilar to These For Walls. The beautiful fingerstyle arrangement reflects his growing solitude, whereas the fiery ending is full of optimism. The intense build up towards the conclusion of the EP can only mean one thing: we can all find our sanctuary.Yard Arm’s honest commentary on life is filled with beautiful imagery and plays on words. Villeneuve describes us as living in our “cardboard brick built homes” on “fake fused cruise control”, referring to how fragile our world is, yet how little we care about it. The duo describe their sound as “if Biffy started a super group with Interpol and Death Cab For Cutie”, which is pretty accurate in our opinion. However, put them all together and you still may not end up with the level of emotion displayed in Sanctuary Lines. We can’t help but feel that Villeneuve and Golding are destined for success.
Review by Alex Brian