The consistently elegant and ethereal beauty of The Raft shines brightly in the new album ‘Summerheads and Winter Beds’: a collection of shimmering incandescent tracks that burn brightly. And we know, that which burns brightly lasts half as long: the album is over before you know it and you just want it to keep going forever.
The Raft is essential the work of Phil Wilson who impressed with a luminous series of EPs and the album ‘Abloom’ back in 2019 (reviewed by Backseat Mafia).
Time passed has given Wilson the advantage of mastering and perfecting his production and song architecture: there is a deeper sense of complexity and texture in these tracks.
And yet along with long time collaborators Claire O’Neill and producer JPedro and a host of other artists, the heart and soul of The Raft still lies in the songcraft: indelible pieces of pure pop treasures that are almost wide-eyed in their innocence and sweetness and yet, antithetically, imbued with a world weary sense of melancholia.
There is a pace and a rhythm throughout the album that is eminently satisfying and an absolute joy to listen to.
First single released off the album was ‘Another Day’ – it jangles, swoops and swirls with abandon: the guitars sparkle and with Wilson’s trademark celestial choruses, full of harmonies and range:
Second single ‘You An Animal’ epitomises the giant leap in songwriting and production: it is a rampant multi-layered anthem that tears its way out of the starting block with vigour and intent. The Raft are masters of melody: the song is a perfect pop blast from beginning to end, with one wild and unrestrained solo creating a surprising rough-hewn edge and another providing a smooth and ethereal edge.
Opening track ‘Clear Water’ draws from the deep well of psychedelia – a Pink Floyd/Sigur Ros enigma with its helicopter-blade pulsating, pounding drums and choral style. It is a blast of an opening.
‘There’s No Going Back’ pulls you right back to reality: it’s a thumping rock song with sharp riffs and layers of vocals and even a trumpet. It is a Liverpudlian/madchester baggy anthem that manages to recall The Charlatans and Echo and the Bunnymen in one very nice swoop.
The architectural guitar riffs continue with force and determination in ‘So Bright’ – underpinning the glorious melodies and choruses.
‘Hold Back the World’ has a knife sharp edge to the guitars and the signature achingly beautiful vocals and harmonies. ‘Skeletons’ presses lightly on the brakes but reflects a Marvin Gaye/northern soul air in a more sombre track that is nothing short of luminous.
The percussive complexity that epitomises this album is at the fore in ‘Heavy Metal Eyes’ – another more restrained but nonetheless just as stirring track – and ‘Thinking About You’ – an almost funky little track with a harder edge.
‘Twisting’ sees Wilson take the backseat, with Claire O’Neill on vocals in a track that references some classic tracks and albums from KLF and De La Soul in a wave of nostalgia. ‘You Need Me’ is another perfectly formed pop song – veering into shoegaze territory with a thumping pace and wall of noise.
The final track ‘The Story of The Song?’ is simply magnificent. Think of the euphoric joy caused by classic tracks like The Story of the Blues by The Might Wah! or ‘The Cutter’ by Echo and the Bunnymen: anthemic, ethereal and pulse quickening. It is a glorious finale to a glorious album.
As always it is always hard to fathom why Wilson’s work doesn’t receive the acclaim it deserves. This is a beautiful album: pinpoint, sharp production and perfectly crafted pop songs that create a shimmering veil of mesmerising and immersive sounds.
According to Wilson, the album draws upon a wide range of impressive influences – ranging from the Beatles, Cocteau Twins and the Lightning Seeds to darker, harder sounds of My Bloody Valentine and The Stone Roses. Influences are important and provide guidance, but it is important to recognise this is an album that stands on its own two feet: a creative tour de force that forges its own direction.
‘Summerheads and Winter Beds’ is out now through the glorious Shore Dive Records