Embrace - This New Day
In this post-Coldplay and Keane world the barrier between independent and mainstream music has become blurred. Number one albums for artists that feature prominently in the NME hasn't happened since the heady days of Britpop in the 90's, so perhaps Embrace's comeback was well timed - returning last year with an interesting album, not quite hitting the peaks of their scorching debut, but it make people sit up and take notice of them once again.
This New Day channels the music of Joshua Tree era U2, Keane's obligatory piano and X&Y Coldplay. However, instead of sounding like trying to jump on the bandwagon, there's something actually enjoyable and engaging about this album which makes this one of the great surprises of the year so far. Even Danny McNamara's vocals have never sounded so good! Sure you could pick it apart - the lyrics are a little bland and stray uncomfortably close to James Blunt territory in places, but they're in the right place and some of the tracks go for the formulaic "slow start, huge chorus, slow finish" but somehow they get away with it. It doesn't always work though, I Can't Come Down is all lush strings and tries for heartfelt emotion but just leaves me cold and reaching for the skip button.
Where this album truly excels is when the tempo is raised like on the opener No Use Crying and especially Sainted with it's great fuzzed up guitar it's only ruined by the, frankly, rubbish lyrics in the chorus. Celebrate and Exploding Machines hark back to the pomp of their debut and certainly something U2 should listen to before embarking on their next album. With a track titled The End Is Near I'd normally make a joke about not having to endure this album anymore, but this song wouldn't have sounded out of place on Coldplay's X&Y. This all builds to the albums title track which distills the highlights of the previous 40 minutes into the best track here - it sounds as though they've been invigorated by their return to the scene they helped form back in the 90's.
Sure it may not be trendy to say this and I think Embrace have pitched themselves firmly at the Coldplay / Keane loving fraternity, but this is an enjoyable album - they're not trying to change the face of music, they're just doing what they do best; anthemic rock at it's best and a sound that will fill venues and festival fields this summer.