Embrace New Album Review – Love is a Basic Need

Music should be a journey, an experience you can recall long after the last song has finished. It should take you somewhere and tell a story. It should have a start, a middle and an end and it should take you through a range of emotions. Embrace’s seventh studio album, ‘Love is a Basic Need’ is crafted in that way but this review comes with a warning! If you begin the journey you have to be prepared for a rough ride. There’s love lost, new love, betrayal, heartache, insecurity and promises of love forever, all told with a sound as beautifully fragile and honest as it is powerful and uplifting. I’m usually reluctant to use such cliches as ‘uplifting’ in album reviews but this album draws you in and makes you recall every emotion you’ve ever felt as you explore this sonic tapestry, woven together with LOVE as it’s thread.

In my opinion all the best albums in history have told a story that makes sense as a whole because they were written to represent a particular time in the bands life. Fans of Embrace will be taken back to their first studio album, The Good Will Out, released in 1998, twenty years before this. It has a similar feel to this. I don’t mean they’ve copied their own blueprint, I mean it has such a cohesive and immersive atmosphere that it truly does tell a story you will remember.

The opening bars of the piano on “The Finish Line’ sets the tone and speaks to me of songs that reflect and remember but ultimately tell the story of something passing out of ones life and of a moving on. The beautiful and powerful duet between singer Danny Mcnamara and Kerri Watt on ‘Never’ promises to never let you down. ‘’I’ll never stop, I’ll never drop, oh take these words and write them down’ and talks about tragic love in the past doomed for failure but also of the promises made for a new love perhaps not yet found, ‘There’s not a stone I wouldn’t turn for you…There’s nothing that I wouldn’t do’

The theme of love continues in ‘Wake Up Call’ except this time it’s about exorcising demons of love and betrayal. There’s a great honesty in the telling of these stories and also in the production of the music. The vocals for instance in Snake Oil are pushed so far out there that there’s no hiding. Snake Oil tells a tale of insecurity and loving someone so much that to let go of them is better than to hurt them, ’You lift me up and it tears me up that I can’t give you enough’ The emotional heights the song reaches at the end, as Danny Mcnamara urges ‘love’ to walk away will bring a tear to the eye of everyone who has felt love and lost it and show those who never had it what it feels like.

Not even half way through our journey and the intensity and passion of the story shows no sign of letting us catch our breath and gather our emotions. ‘Where You Sleeping’, sung by guitarist and brother Richard McNamara tells of betrayal and paints a picture of loss, pain and loneliness raw with emotion. ‘I cried enough for two’ ‘So I wait, and wait, hoping for the clank and squeak from our gate, and I wait, I wait, clench my fist so I can feel myself shake, come home, come home, come home…’ This is heart on sleeve stuff and the production matches the mood so perfectly.

If you’ve invested in this journey so far you might be expecting a few fillers but really there aren’t any. ‘All That Remains’ with it’s emotion invested in reflection and a string arrangement that made me recall the Beatles, continues to play with our emotions. This is perhaps the hardest song to read so far but in all honesty you may still be reeling from the intensity of ‘Where You Sleeping’

The whole album seems to have the atmosphere and feel of a curtain call, which is more apparent here in ‘Rabbit Hole’ It promises a helping hand, ‘…when you’ve made your own luck but you didn’t make enough…’, ‘When you’re looking for something and you’re searching without end, when you’re looking for one thing oh don’t be afraid…if it won’t go your way’  The strings at the start simmer underneath ready for the song to explode and when it does, it seems like this song could be a suitably impressive replacement to the ‘Good Will Out’ as an ending to gigs.

The story continues with ‘Horseshoe in my Glove’ and begins beautifully with Mickey Dale’s emotive piano and Danny’s wonderfully expressive vocal about the pain of letting someone down. ‘My Luck Comes in Threes’ continues that theme and we know that we are nearing the end of the journey ‘Take all that I am carrying so I can get some rest…We got this far but now my soul is black and blue’ as the song climaxes with the confession ‘…Alone in the dark I will never learn’ And so to the finale – Love is a Basic Need, a tying together of the theme of love running through the album, only love is a basic need, whatever else we have or don’t have in a relationship, love is the glue that bonds us together.

Metaphors of love, loss and survival are scattered throughout this wondrous album like flowers on the graves of all that was lost and there’s an intense sadness in this music. Yet through it there comes an exorcising of past demons and a positivity, a story of survival.  If you’ve ever been through something truly traumatic and life changing and yet survived, this album is the one you’ll be listening to with the sun on your face and wind in your hair as you smile, knowing you made it through to the other side.

This is not another part of Embrace’s triumphant return (they never went away) it’s a step forward into the light, footstep after footstep having shed the weight of all that has gone before, knowing that whilst it changed you, it didn’t defeat you. Some people may not wish to undertake this journey, after all it’s not for the faint hearted nor the weak and you might not make it to the finish line,  but ultimately it’s a story of love, loss and healing. Love after all is a basic need.

I reviewed an Embrace gig last year and Danny told us that the new album was ‘really good’ After listening to the album for a few days now and once more for good luck at the album listening party, I have to tell you that Danny was wrong. It’s really very very good.

Love is a Basic Need is released by Cooking Vinyl on 2nd March.

Embrace tour dates

Wed 28 Glasgow O2 Academy
Thu 29 Newcastle Northumbria University
Fri 30 Nottingham Rock City
Sat 31 Manchester O2 Ritz
Sun 01 Cardiff Tramshed
Mon 02 Southampton Engine Room
Wed 04 Norwich Epic
Thu 05 Birmingham O2 Institute
Fri 06 London O2 Shepherds Bush Empire
Sat 07 Leeds O2 Academy

Reviewer: Phillip Veitch

Embrace image courtesy of PR.

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1 thought on “Embrace New Album Review – Love is a Basic Need

  1. Stunning album in every way! Embrace has pulled it off for the 7th time! Pure Britpop Miraclia!

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