DRY THE RIVER – Shallow Bed (RCA)

Dry The River first appeared around the same time as Mumford & Sons, Noah And The Whale, and Fleet Foxes, and at that time they were all lumped together under the indie-folk label. Dry The River, though, never really fitted into that category, and while the other three bands went on to greater things, DTR ploughed a lonely furrow, releasing a couple of EPs and now this, their debut album. Put together by Norwegian born singer/songwriter Peter Liddle, the band have fewer folk influences that their contemporaries, and have much more of a rock feel. This is most evident on opening track ‘Animal Skins’, with its bombastic chorus and pounding rhythm section, and shows that the folk tag was just lazy journalism. ‘New Ceremony’ has an eminently hummable tune, and when the chorus bursts out it makes an already great song even better. ‘Shield Your Eyes’ is another big tune with a big chorus, but the addition of the violin gives it a bit of light relief in the verses. ‘History Book’ reigns in the over the top production for a jaunty little number where the verses float by before the band dive in for the chorus. ‘The Chamber And The Valves’ is another great indie rocker, driven along with a pounding beat and enhanced by subtle horns, and once again boasting a memorable tune not only on the chorus but for the verses as well. ‘Demons’ is something else entirely, documenting the struggle to overcome depression, with the music gradually building to a crescendo which is lifted at the end with some lush orchestration. ‘Bible Belt’ segues seamlessly, and uses the mood already built up to bring us the story of a family torn apart by alcoholism, all set to a suitably sombre melody. ‘No Rest’ brings back the big music, with another stupendous chorus tagged onto a track that you originally think is going nowhere, before it explodes at the end to become another winner. ‘Weights And Measures’ is the title track from one of their EPs, and is one of the band’s more reflective songs, taken at a slower pace but keeping the power that I have come to expect from these songs. It is left until nearly the end of the album to get to its highlight, ‘Lion’s Den’. It starts as a delicate piece of orchestrated pop with a wistful vocal and subdued playing by the band, but then halfway through it erupts into an impassioned piece of music, lushly orchestrated and with the band at its most powerful bringing the song to a close in a cataclysmic wall of sound. After that they could only finish with an acoustic ballad, which they do with ‘Family’, and it is the perfect way to end the album. Dry The River have received comments about their lack of individuality, and how their music sounds too anodyne, but I think the very fact that they have extricated themselves from the indie-folk crowd and come up with a rock sound that is all their own says exactly the opposite.

Animal Skins