FOR THE COMPANY
by Little May (out now)
There really wasn't an album we've been anticipating more this year than Little May's debut, For The Company. And this has been a big year for music releases from at home and abroad. But we've been paying close attention to the music of Hannah Field, Annie Hamilton and Liz Drummond for a couple of years now and the reputation they have built up in a relatively short time is nothing short of extraordinary. You'll see some recurring Little May hallmarks mentioned all over the internets... gorgeous harmonies, a penchant for tales of loss, longing and (of course) love, storytelling talents that defy the young ages of the lyricists. All of the plaudits thrown in their direction are well deserved. They deserve so much more and, if For The Company is an indication of a long career to follow there will definitely be so many more accolades to come.
A serene atmosphere is built around the opening track 'Cicadas', a reflective Field led number that effortlessly draws you in. There's a subtle build constantly propelling it forward under the direction of Hamilton's guitar and Cat Hunter's perfect percussion. More than a little enchanting, you'll be forgiven if the opening thud of 'Sold' snaps you out of the daydream it put you in. You'll slide right back into a daydream with the rolling wave effect of 'Sold'. It feels like a set of waves, with a calmer opening building up just a little bit until the big finish. You might just find the inspiration for the album title in the lyrics too. Don't get me started on the opening harmonies, we'll be here for days and we're only up to the second song, so moving right along to 'Home'. "Jet setter, I think I'd better go. It's been five years, waiting for the snow." One listen is all you'll need to understand why 'Home' was the lead single. It's a big moment on the album and a reflection of the strengths that The Nationals' Aaron Dessner brought to the production duties. Even the small moments before some thundering percussion feel rich and full. But that way the vocals hurtle towards the finish is all Little May, and harkens back to the fan favourite single, 'Hide'.
There is a unique identity to every song on For The Company, which is genuinely something that needs to be appreciated (along with the pacing) and it's no easy feat. If it was, the majority of album back halves wouldn't be so dull until the last song or two. 'Oh My My', penned by Drummond and featuring her equal parts ethereal and haunting vocals, balances the light and dark with bouncing piano against minor chords. There's 'wade in the water' soul and lines that appear more playful than they every truly could be in, "if I lost you all I'd say is oh my, my." These songs are complex, layered and when you scratch beneath the surface they become largely undefinable (like real people). But we'll try anyway, because #musicjournalism, am I right? 'Bow and Arrow' is actually what an anthemic song should sound like. "Don't you walk the line, walk that straight and arrow, don't you walk the line, we are the bow and arrow." General consensus will show an uplifting feeling experienced by listeners of 'Bow and Arrow'. Something to motivate you, put a smile on your face and remind you that it's all going to be ok. That's an anthem. That's 'Bow and Arrow'.
"You said I'm all you ever needed, but you don't want me all the time. Imagine us living by a river, I was your shotgun bride." I've been on somewhat of a happy/sad spiral the past couple of weeks and I think it has something to do with my inability to stop listening to the song 'Seven Hours'. There has never been another song I've listened to where I've felt more heartbroken for the person singing. Someone that I don't actually know, but if I saw them on the street I wouldn't be able to stop myself from asking if they need a hug."You said she's all you ever needed, we're just strangers with copper bindings, need you to give me back my lungs so my body can forgive me... slow. And I can fight this with my hands but my head won't let me. You're still here." She was all that person supposedly needed and then that other 'she' was all that person ever needed and then original she is left with a feeling that's just like being continually punched in the gut and yeah... I'd ask if said original she wanted a hug. (As a sneaky side note to Hannah Field, please don't be freaked out if a strange man asks if you need a hug because of the whole 'Seven Hours' thing.)
"What's your favourite song on the album?" Sometimes it's easy to answer that question, but Little May have not made it easy to answer that question. Kudos to them. If I was to direct someone that I didn't think could handle 'Seven Hours' straight up, I would point them in the direction of 'Sinks'. It's just Little May doing what Little May does best. There is an underlying groove here, an energy that is waiting to be let loose and a rush of drums signals it's about to be let out and when it happens 'Sinks' evolves into something powerful. That the lyrics are literally repeating, "something's going to rise," is too good to be a coincidence. Little May know what they're doing. And just to shake things up, when the frantic 'Remind Me' fades into a distant memory, you'll be convinced there's nothing they can't do. By the time you've arrived at 'The Shine Is Brighter At Night', you're likely to find yourself trapped in a state somewhere between devastating heartache and wonderful joy. If you stop for a moment and let the mood of the closing track wash over you, I think you'll find yourself on the joy side of the tracks. Those major chords (clearly not chosen by Drummond) are enough to trick you. This joy scenario only works if you resist all urges to think about the words. You have been warned. But seriously, do yourself a favour and listen to the words.
While I was listening to 'Seven Hours' earlier today I received a text message from music blogging superstar Jo Michelmore which said a little something about For The Company like... "When I was younger, I'm sure I would have liked it, but I'm not sure I would have understood, at least what it meant to me. It's stunning isn't it? Being an adult is awesome. In other words: the Little May album = [insert yellow love heart emoji here]." Jo's good with the words. There's a lot of talk about the sad songs Little May come up with, even from Hamilton, Field and Drummond themselves. The great thing about sad songs is they generally come from a place that a listener will have some form of shared experience. And there's nothing to make you feel a little bit better than not feeling so alone, right? Right. As you grow up just a little bit, you can appreciate the sad songs on a different level. It's not just feeling that they're sad, it's understanding why. And that really is awesome. And so are Little May. For music coming from a "sad" place, it sure does make us happy.
Sure it's only October, but it really doesn't get better than this. Album of the Year? It'll be hard to convince me of any less.
Matt Bond gives For The Company five red wine emoji out of five...