Maybe it’s just me, me right now. Maybe it’s because it is actually Autumn. Maybe it’s because it’s late afternoon / early evening and automatic lights are starting to trigger outside my window. I can see lights and reflections of lights in the windows around me, and the outline of a tree, still leafy and green at this time of year but slowly turning into a shadow. And it all seems to blend in nicely with the sound of Shadows.
If Songs From Northern Britain was summer, and Man-Made was Autumn, then Shadows is just a little bit later that same Autumn. It is, following the pattern for Teenage Fanclub albums at this point, not a radical departure for the band. It is also, again typical of Teenage Fanclub, a lovely thing, full of sweet melodies and harmonies, mellifluous rhythms and subtle instrumentation and arrangements.
As ever, song-writing duties are split evenly among the three writers, each getting the now customary four tracks. Whether by accident or by design, the album can even be chopped into four sections in which McGinley follows Blake follows Love every time. Are Teenage Fanclub starting to overdo it with the “familiar old friend” nature of their albums?
Well, yes and no. If, like me, you reach Shadows at the end of a long stroll through all the Teenage Fanclub albums, listening to almost nothing else for a couple of days, it can be a bit of a struggle to recall distinct moments. If, on the other hand, this is your first time, there’s no reason not to love Shadows as much as Man-Made or Howdy!
For the most part the songs unfold slowly and without drama; “Baby Lee” is something of an outlier here with its bouncier sing-along melody. Compare and contrast with the track that follows it – “The Fall”, a sleepy lyric underpinned by gently simmering organ that tumbles through a cyclical guitar interlude and out into a contemplative ending:
The leaves on the trees shield my eyes from the sun
But the leaves that I see they won’t be there for long
When I light a fire underneath what I was
I won’t feel sad only warmed by the loss
“Into The City” picks up the reins and cruises for two more minutes before boldly falling away to nothing, only to rebuild once more. After “Dark Clouds” and “The Past” there’s a lull going into the second half of Shadows; “Shock and Awe” reaches out for an elusive energy, while “When I Still Have Thee” is unremarkable save for the anachronistic last word of its title. “Sweet Days Waiting” is the epitome of timeless, but it’s left to the slide guitar beauty of closing track “Today Never Ends” to provide the true highlight. Despite being in keeping with the mood of the rest of the album, it is at the same time uniquely and exquisitely beautiful, existing in its own time and space.
The sunlight pours in through my windows
I travel back in time
The past’s a place where chaos stays indoors
The time you borrowed arise tomorrow
Today’s the day that never ends
This is music to drift away with, next to a warming fire, a glass of single malt placed nearby. It’s not soporific – at least not in the sense of boredom that word tends to suggest – it’s just that at its center it’s music that is still: music that beckons you on in and takes good care of you. No bad thing, if you ask me.