Coastal Tones – New Album by Orphan Boy

Avid readers of this blog will have come across Orphan Boy and I have also indulged the dear listeners of my radio shows with Orphan Boy tracks. Hark now, here comes Coastal Tone – new album by Orphan Boy.  To get the ones who missed these opportunities up to date: Orphan Boy are Rob Cross on guitar/vocals, Paul “Smithy” Smith on bass, Chris Day on drums and Sam Carlton on sax/guitar/keys. They call Cleethorpes in Northern England their home and went to Manchester to try their luck.

This happened in 2010 after the release of their first album “Shop Local” in 2008 which Orphan Boy describe as council pop (which has a very funny double meaning as “council pop” is also a name for tap water. Their second album “Passion, Pain & Loyalty” sounded a tad more experimental and dealt – amongst other subjects – with the pitfalls of the music industry. That is, if you even get close to the music industry. Orphan Boy wrote, played and toured, then toured some more, then…you get the drift. You have a band there, that knows how to play live which is a blessing. Even if the major music industry deserted them, Orphan Boy have something they have both well-earned and can be proud of: A very loyal and loving fanbase and a dedicated label and management in Concrete Records. But they chucked it in in 2011…

Thankfully, they came back by popular demand and because they felt an urgent need to continue and get it out of their system and thus gave us “Coastal Tones”, their third album, released on May 26th 2015 (Concrete Records).

And what a corker of an album “Coastal Tones” has become. That drive, that hypnotic sound, that urgent voice, that knack for melodies, those guitars, the composition, the lyrics…I am sounding incoherent, I know, but let me try to put this in one sentence: Orphan Boy have created a classic and it is truly their own. They were very true to themselves and the album breathes that in every single song.

Lyrically a lot of the songs are about small towns, often former industrial towns and their being overlooked, unfairly so, as they offer homes, community spirit, support, and yes, pride and beauty despite their appearance to the superficial onlooker. Sadness and the past as well as haunting places are felt but become not so much something suffocating but are acknowledged in the looking forward to the future. This is how it feels to me.

The music mirrors the lyrics and the images and emotions they evoke so perfectly in every track, it is spooky. If you want me to liken the music to other bands, some spring to mind, but Orphan Boy are Orphan Boy and “Coastal Tones” was born out of letting go listening to: Silence.

Coastal Tones offers you a whacking 10 tracks, let’s have a look a them:

Beats Like Distant Tides was the first single off the album and sets the tone in the driving rhythm section, a “stuck-in-your-ear-for-days-melody”, the clever use of instruments and that melancholy, that sweet melancholy that does not make you surrender but continue.

Sunken Hearts continues in this vein, veers towards more pop song than driving rocker though. Lovely arrangements.

Transpennie has this incredible drum drive again which kicks in after a quiet start – this is a travelling, a moving song and indeed it is about train journeys. Some beautiful guitars in here as well. The vocals sear over the music and make together with the guitars for a very hypnotic sound.

On A Nelson Skyline slows down the pace a little just tempo wise and would be a perfect companion to sit in a caf on a rainy day and watch people or getting home in rush hour on a bleak winter’s day…ah stop me…it befits all seasons and all surroundings really that have a little greyness about them with warmth lurking. Oooooh, nice sax!

From The Provinces is the second single and the very track that lists the overlooked towns. It has a definite 80’s feel to it but in a good way. (It’s the keyboards perhaps).

Money To Money has loads to offer, apart from the usual goodies, a lot of interesting tempi changes, nice harmonies and it could become a real anthem.

Clover kicks in right away with those far-away, high-above vocals in quite a high voice (usually baritone is my thing, but it suits the urgency and the wistfulness of the songs perfectly). Sumptuous guitars galore.

Bury Your Stars starts out with some harmony singing and develops into an ever faster rocker, like a merry-go-round that we are all flying off at some stage.

Coastal Tones is the title track and drives shudders down your back with the incredibly bleak sax section at the beginning and the beats kick in and a very sad melody that reflect the lyrics of monotony of a working life. The day fading in a seaside resort, the music conjures up every single image.

Thirtysomething Lovers Ballad stands out as almost-spoken-word track, the vocals very much in the foreground. A description of life in a grim northern seaside town. “We wash away those dreams”. The rhythm section again drives on relentlessy, the guitars emphasise the madness of life. And yet, there is hope. (And, wow, seagulls at the end).

Now, I am off to listen to Orphan Boy’s “Coastal Tones” again, a classic, may I repeat, both lyrically and musically and as Northern England as can be and yet it stands for description of small working-class town life and you can listen to it now here, too:

Orphan Boy


Today in a radio broadcast from the BBC 6 Music Festival, there was a discussion going on about the difficulty of labelling bands and their music. A special mention was made, in how far for instance Newcastle bands have it easier than Manchester bands to break free from the city’s musical history.

A story Orphan Boy are only too well acquainted with: Originally from Cleethorpes and then moving to the big shmoke of Manchester, they were pegged as a “lad band” for maybe as little as the clothes they wore.

This happened to Rob Cross, Paul Smith and Chris Day right after the release of their first album “Shop Local”. Good for them that they gathered a following during their live gigs that is fiercely loyal to them and carries the lovely name of Orphanites.

They also luckily have a record company that believes in them and supports them with Concrete Recordings and the spirited Mike Concrete at the forefront. Their second album “Passion, Pain & Loyalty” was a brave venture away from guitars into simpler keyboard melodies. Oh, do they have the knack to write a song. No worries, they did get the guitars back into play but the music had got much more varied.

Did Orphan Boy want to give up? Yes, they did. Why did other bands become successful, why were record companies not really bothered? Thankfully for us, they kept at it, now more determined than ever.

So, not only, one of their songs went viral online over Christmas – 2015 will be the year of a new album, new single, gigs and all.

And on the 14th of March is the launch of the single “Beats Like Distant Tides” from the forthcoming album “Coastal Tones” at The Ruby Lounge in Manchester. The single will be released on March 23rd 2015, the album is to follow in April.

Now, if you cannot make it there, neither can I (sigh) but have a gander and listen here:

Here’s the video that went viral (used by Grimsby Town FC for their Christmas message) and it is truly sweet, as is the song.

 

Me, I actually love Orphan Boy’s “Pop song”:

And of course here’s the new single “Beats Like Distant Tides”:

You find Orphan Boy at their website: www.orphan-boy.com and on Facebook and Twitter and all the music places and on the 14th of March at The Ruby Lounge.