It is an uncomfortable time of year. Winter has seemingly entered it’s 312th dreary week, everyone is still skint, and bang in the middle is an awkward alienating sudo-celebration of romantic love. There could be no more fitting season for Mighty Oaks to launch their bittersweet third album.
To call this an anti-valentine may seem a back-hander of a compliment: yet the Berlin-based rock trio have pulled together a set of songs about loss, change, death, and moving on which inexplicably succeeds in making you feel better about everything. Warm and familiar, like baking scones on a rainy Saturday afternoon, All Things Go is both gently elegiac and systematically cathartic.
Testament to a decade of navigating the precarious line between catchy, moody, and meaningful, the boys just about dodge the schmaltzy bullet. Tonally the album is parabolic: we begin in the sadness of the past (All Things Go), and end with frustrated sadness for the future (Kids), but in the middle the tone lightens in an uplifting (if slightly worship-song cheesy) diptych of What You Got and Crazy.
Although some sparser arrangements and close vocal harmonies hark back to the roots of Mighty Oaks, this is largely a melodic indie-pop offering. Generally the folk shows through not in the arrangements but the storytelling. The opening title track – premised on the unlikely elevator romance of lead vocalist Ian Hooper’s parents – is the traditional ballad arc of boy-meets-girl-and-one-of-them-dies-too-young. Nevertheless, in prime mid-album position, grieving Irish threnody Aileen is both the emptier sound of nu-folk, and by far the best song on the album.
If the start to 2020 has left you keenly feeling the dislocation of a changing world; if February didn’t feel like roses and diamonds; if you’re all out of sorts and need a way back to equilibrium, maybe this wistful album is the small dose of musical medicine you need.