Sixteen years after the release of their first album, Elbow’s newest album Little Fictions comes three years after their last, with a far more pronounced theme and a nigh-universal resonance. Elbow’s predictable style of stylised and dramatic rock shifts to hold a more centralised focus – the romantic overtures throughout are clear references to the relationship between frontman Guy Garvey, and author Emma Jane Unsworth. Messing with themes of parenthood, marriage, and even Brexit, the now-fourpiece band – their drummer, Richard Jupp, leaving the group in 2016 – still manages to retain an undeniably Mancunian sound, one which remains mostly unchanged throughout their time as a band. I won’t lie, with an overarching theme of love, the release of this album around Valentine’s Day was well thought-through, I’ll give them that.
“It’s not the most replayable album”
Topping the charts in early February, the album might not retain its intricacy, but it still retains its Genesis-esque influences and its progressive style, with grand orchestral sweeps throughout creating their distinctive sound amidst the simplification of their usual tone. A difficult record to listen to, it may seem hard to initially find anything that grabs you at all, however personally I found my footing during the second listen-through. Whilst this allows for a newfound emotional depth, with both ‘Magnificent (She Says)’ and ‘Firebrand & Angel’ both providing such momentum, this comes at a cost – in comparison to their previous records, this one lacks the intricacy, subtlety and stylistic quality that their work is most known for.
Whilst definitely not their most enjoyable works, I’d argue that this album is still undeniably Elbow, albeit changing their time-tested formula and pushing it towards something that is able to connect with far more of their fan base. Despite this, it’s not the most replayable album, and despite it taking two plays to connect with, I think it’ll be a while before there’s a third…