Like the sound of spring breaking. This is a gorgeous and delightfully soothing debut album that recognises that it’s hard to be a human, but ultimately decides to focus on hope, love, and beauty as the key to survival.
You might not have heard of Pavey Ark, an alternative-folk band from Hull, but on the basis of their gorgeous and delightfully soothing debut album, “Close Your Eyes and Think of Nothing”, that will soon be changing.
The band formed in 2016 and are fronted by singer and songwriter Neil Thomas and accompanied by a fantastic group of musicians, sounding like a band who have come along almost fully formed. They’ve played several major UK festivals including Glastonbury, Cornbury, and in 2019 Bearded Theory, which lead Under The Radar to pick their “experimental folk” set as one of the stand outs of the entire festival. Although they’ve only been together for a relatively short time as a group they’ve already supported names like Badly Drawn Boy, Steve Mason, and Rozi Plain.
Their debut album – “Close Your Eyes and Think of Nothing” – is out on March 20th and ahead of that they have released the title track from the album and posted a lyric video with the release.
The title is a nod to the song “Private Hell” by The Jam. Thomas explains the meaning behind it a little more:
“Long before Pavey Ark existed I always thought it would be a great title for an album. It sounds like such an easy and blissful thing to be able to just Close Your Eyes and Think of Nothing, but it’s incredibly hard to do. The song is about people who are oblivious to what’s really going on. Blissful ignorance. I wouldn’t want to be like that but at the same time it must be so freeing. The song is also about a relationship breakdown…”
Thematically, the album touches on the enormity of first-time fatherhood, dreams of escaping the rat race, the push and pull of relationships past and present, all while conveying a sense of tentative hope for the future. Sonically, the album sounds like spring breaking, a gentle awakening, intricate guitar lines and luscious strings dancing together to create a warmly satisfying set of songs.
Album opener “Wallflowers” sets the tone from the off, with it’s soft instrumentation that is layered as the song develops. The track has picked up the love of BBC 6 Music’s Chris Hawkins already and described by For Folk’s Sake as “lush and layered”. The chorus of the following track and lead single “Cuckoo”, came to Thomas mid-dream on a night shortly after the inauguration of Donald Trump:
“In the dream I was floating over a map of the US looking down on a lake and a place called Cuckoo. In the background the chorus to the song was playing in my head. The phenomenon of writing in a dream has only happened to me 4 or 5 times. It’s amazing when it does happen, but they haven’t always evolved into finished songs. As I got out of bed and grabbed my guitar at about 4am, I knew this one was a definite keeper.”
The album is packed full of lovely melodies and beautiful lyrics which reveal themselves further on each listen, all set against a perfectly balanced ‘Goldilocks’ instrumentation – not too much, not too little, but just right. Although some of the themes on the album are challenging, the overall sense is one of optimism. We need that more than ever right now! For example, on “Leaf by Leaf”, Thomas sings: “We’re building up the sunrise beam by beam, We’re turning down the darkness in between”.
“Hidden Hills” changes gear temporarily, with the introduction of a slowly building fuzz guitar which propels the song onward. “Lost in Blue” is another gorgeously balanced song with lovely strings in the first half and the introduction of a little more punch in the second – only a little though. “Jenny Let Go” is yet another lovely, lilting number, all caked in nostalgia. There is a lot to love about “Close Your Eyes and Think of Nothing”. It does not suffer from repeat listening. The album recognises that it’s hard to be a human but ultimately decides to focus on hope, love, and beauty as the key to survival. And who would argue against that?
See live in 2020:
Tues 31st Mar – Greystones, Sheffield
Mon 13th Apr – Oporto, Leeds
Fri 17 Apr – Green Note, London
Sat 25th Apr – Hull, Middleton Hall (album launch)
Fri 28th May – Acoustic Festival of GB, Uttoxeter
Sat 20th Jun – C-Fab Folk and Blues Festival, Lincolnshire
Fri 24th July – Deershed Festival, North Yorkshire
Fri 14th Aug – Boomtown Fair, Hampshire
Sat 5th Sept – Moseley Folk Festival, Birmingham