My introduction to Amber Run happened in September 2014 when I saw them support Lewis Watson at his London gig. Having experienced my fair share of terrible support acts, I was not entirely keen on watching their set (much to the dismay of my friend). But boy, was I proven wrong. I remember sensing a frenzy taking over the crowd the moment the Nottingham five-piece took to the stage; this energy continued to strengthen as they made their way through a set full of explosive, indie-rock anthems. Their debut album 5am collated anthems like Pilot and I Found alongside a host of new melodies creating a light-hearted and optimistic collection. Sophomore album For a Moment, I Was Lost strays away from this route as the band invite us to explore darker themes and powerful rhythms.
Starting things off is the track Insomniac which relays a bitter and frustrated message over punchy, piano-ridden rhythms. The rhetorical, “Are you losing any sleep?” alludes to an act of betrayal by the subject while the repetition of “Are you lost?” hints towards attempts to mend their ways but, ultimately, failing to do so. Lead singer Joe Keogh initially contrasts the interrogative nature of the lyrics with a calm tone of voice but as the song progresses, his pitch deepens which emphasises a sense of urgency. The album starts off with heavy themes which seem to intensify through the course of the LP as evidenced by succeeding tracks No Answers and Island. Both tracks convey the hardships of facing heartbreak or disappointment in different, yet effective, ways. No Answer continues the tradition of overlaying dark, melancholic lyrics over upbeat tunes where the music is what guides your emotions. Island, on the other hand, uses powerful lyrics, “Oh, when I die / Don’t waste your flowers on me” to relay its message of heartbreak and defeat.
Fickle Game is probably one of my favourites on the album because it is such a simple yet, poignant track. Keogh’s vocals rise above the stripped back sound of the piano and guitar forcing us to focus on the lyrics which, in Keogh’s words, are about “self-reflection in the music industry” and the struggles of maintaining a band. This comes in lieu of their tumultuous year which saw the band not only deal with the loss of their record deal but, the departure of a member. The uncertainty surrounding the existence of the band also facilitated songs such as Dark Bloom which points to their challenging relationship with music/the industry. The sense of torment felt at the hands of the thing they admire, is sensed through Keogh’s voice and the mounting beat of the drums.
Rounding up this review are two of my other favourite tracks – Perfect and Haze. Haze was one of the first releases made by the band upon their revival and initially, I was not a fan. Why does Joe Keogh’s voice sound weird? Where are the upbeat and catchy tunes? I was very confused and conflicted until this Monday when I saw them at the Phoenix. The performance of this song blew me away; all of their voices harmonised into one and created an a capella rendition that could put Semi-Toned to shame. Its allusive discussion of depression serves to strengthen the emotional impact it has while also bringing to light a key issue within the music industry. Saving the best for last, we need to talk about Perfect. This song sees the powerful combination of heavy guitar riffs, deep bass and drums which oozes anger and desperation. The reality of the fight for perfection is scrutinised within this track as Keogh suggests that no matter what you do during the battle you are ultimately placed at the mercy of karma.
The success of Amber Run’s second album comes from their ability to craft their darkest and most vulnerable moments into songs that showcase strength and resilience. The differences between the debut and this album might be off-putting for some but, they should be regarded as signs of maturity which brings them ever closer to establishing their own unique sound.