Linden – Bleached Highlights (AED Records)
LP / CD / DL
An unrelentingly uplifting album reminiscent of Teenage Fanclub or the Beach Boys from AED Records signing Linden.
Linden is the latest venture for Joe McAlinden. Now, his might not be a name that draws immediate recognition, but it’s possible his work has touched your life in some way.
In previous incarnations Joe has fronted one time Creation Records band, Superstar, collaborated with Alex Chilton/Big Star, worked with BMX Bandits and arranged the strings on Teenage Fanclub’s classic album, Bandwagonesque. Hopefully your interest is now piqued.
If you’re still wavering, then consider the fact that this album is being released on AED Records, which is run by none other than Edwyn Collins and James Endeacott (the man who spotted the talents of The Strokes and The Libertines, amongst others). A pedigree worth investigating, I think you’ll agree.
So, to Bleached Highlights. The album kicks off with a feeling akin to that of leaving Scotland on a rainy October morning and getting on a plane that lands in Malaga, where it’s 80 degrees. You are embraced and lifted by the warmth as you step from the plane.
A similar feeling occurs when you hit play and ‘Brown Bird Singing’ (the lead single) bursts forth into your ears. It’s instantly gratifying and uplifting. The guitar is nice and fresh and the bass warm. There’s nothing not to like here.
Vocally it’s superb. McAlinden’s vocal range is wide and all the time it sounds heartfelt and sincere. It’s sunshine in musical form. ‘I Just Wanna Be Here (When I’m Somewhere Else)’ keeps the mood sunny. The guitar chimes nicely on this song about missing home and loved ones. There’s a nice 60’s feeling on the guitar between verses and again the vocal is uplifting.
Title track ‘Bleached Highlights’ and ‘Thank You’ both keep the good feeling going. The former has a cracking guitar and sax intro and an overwhelmingly positive outlook. The keyboard adds warmth like a nice blanket. The latter lets the bass guitar take the onus at the beginning of the track. Both are beautiful slices of pop gold. Simplistic at first glance, but with a depth that comes from musicians that have sunshine in their veins and the ability to channel it through they’re instruments.
‘Round & Round’ keeps the good mood going. A really nice keyboard is the main feature to grab your ear, but the guitar and drums do an equally fine job of keeping the toes tapping. ‘If I Had Wings’ goes for a fuller sound than the previous track. The b-side to ‘Brown Bird Singing’, it skips along at a good tempo. The guitar chimes away like reflected sunlight and the vocals again pull you into a state of happiness. Your spirit certainly soars to the places Linden wants to go if he had those wings.
‘Written’ is slightly more downbeat than the previous tracks. There’s a little hint of feedback on the bass and the overall sound is grittier. Of all the songs on the album, this was the one that felt like it could have been a Superstar track. The harmonies are great and the guitar shimmers between verses.
‘Hear My Name’ is a little more stripped down in it’s construction. The keyboard and vocal kicks things off in a very emotive intro. The band join in and the song warms up, with the fuller sound enriching the overall effect. Again the harmonies are excellent, hinting at The Beach Boys.
Penultimate track ‘Something Wonderful’ starts off with an acoustic picking out notes, accompanied by a breathy vocal. Bass and drums join in and the song heads off on it’s merry way, taking you with it but it really shines on the chorus which elevates it to another level.
‘Hideaway’ wraps proceedings up, starting with an interesting keyboard sound. The addition of the drums lend the intro a playful feel. Again, the backing vocals are great. The song pauses briefly for a nice piano, but it’s soon back into it’s groove and the tempo picks up a little before the songs fades.
This is one of the most overwhelmingly uplifting and positive albums I’ve heard in a while. To the uninitiated like myself, these songs aren’t ridiculously complex or trying to be too clever, they are simply indie pop songs with a heart of gold.
To be unmoved by Linden is to have a heart of stone. There may be nothing new here, but it’s nice to have a ray of sunshine to counter some of the darker and grittier music that’s going around just now.
If you like the uplifting vibes of Teenage Fanclub or the Beach Boys, then you owe it to yourself to give this album a listen. You won’t regret it.
All words by Steve Mcgillivray. You can read more from Steve on LTW here.