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Alternative & Indie - Released March 7, 2011 | Fiction - Cooperative Music USA - Downtown Records

Distinctions Sélection Disques de l'année Les Inrocks - Sélection Les Inrocks - Sélection du Mercury Prize
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Alternative & Indie - Released January 1, 2008 | Polydor Records

Booklet Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Lauréat du Mercury Prize
In a world where even the generally mediocre likes of Snow Patrol can have honest to goodness mainstream pop success, it seems peculiar that Elbow have never broken through beyond a devoted cult following. (Admittedly, the fact that their new labels, Polygram's alt rock imprint Fiction Records in the U.K. and Geffen in the U.S., are their fourth and fifth, respectively, after stints on Island, EMI, and V2, may have a lot to do with their lack of mainstream attention.) Exploring the fruitful middle ground between early Radiohead's mopey art rock and Coldplay's radio-friendly dumbing down of the same, Elbow makes records built on a balance of things not often found together anymore: strange musical textures alongside immediately accessible pop song choruses, or unexpected left turns in song structure paired with frontman Guy Garvey's warm, piercing vocals. It's no surprise that Elbow are regularly compared to old-school prog rockers like Pink Floyd and Electric Light Orchestra: they're proof that records can be cool and commercial at the same time, an idea that's not particularly hip in this day and age. Yet a song like "Grounds for Divorce," which puts a sharp, wryly funny Garvey lyric against a clanging, Tom Waits-like arrangement and throws on one of the album's catchiest tunes for good measure, or "Some Riot," which filters a yearning, lovely melody for guitar and piano through so many layers of effects and processing that it can be hard to tell what the original instruments sounded like, isn't afraid to display its accessibility even on its most experimental numbers. At the album's best, including the spacious, atmospheric balladry of the opening "Starlings" (imagine if Sigur Rós could write a pop song as emotionally direct as Keane's "Everybody's Changing") and the potential radio breakthroughs of the soaring, semi-orchestral epic "One Day Like This" (complete with choral climax!) and the wistful "Weather to Fly," The Seldom Seen Kid is Elbow's most self-assured and enjoyable album so far. [The U.K. version added "We're Away" as a bonus track.] ~ Stewart Mason
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Alternative & Indie - Released January 1, 2014 | Polydor Records

Distinctions 4F de Télérama
Elbow recorded their sixth album at Real World Studios, making the connection between themselves and Peter Gabriel plain. Much of this connection comes from the husky, subdued rasp of lead singer Guy Garvey, but the band on a whole favors a similar kind of accessible art rock where the textures are lucid yet elliptical while the songs are sturdy and melodic, wearing their accouterments well. This blend helped make 2011's Build a Rocket Boys! into a sizable hit in their native Britain and throughout Europe, but The Take Off and Landing of Everything is better still, demonstrating that the band knows how to seize the spoils of success. This assurance -- relaxed and deliberate, confident enough to play up both melodies and cool, echoing abstractions in the production -- belies how much of the album was written in the wake of the dissolution of Garvey's long-term romantic relationship, but The Take Off isn't strictly a breakup album. Rather, it's a record of coming to term with middle age, finding that there is a birth that accompanies every death, joy to balance the sorrow, an understanding that comes with acceptance. Garvey conveys these issues in his lyrics but, as a band, Elbow reflect this comfortable reckoning with their own nature, letting sadness creep at the edges but favoring a warm, enveloping melancholy that turns the album into a soundtrack for healing, not wallowing. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Alternative & Indie - Released January 1, 2002 | Polydor Records

Distinctions Sélection du Mercury Prize
Elbow fiddles with a battery of widescreen dynamics and slight prog rock tendencies, delivering an epic debut of Manchester miserablism that will likely gain comparisons to fellow Mancunian band Doves (rightfully) and Coldplay (wrongfully). Like Doves, Elbow has enough supple shadings and tasteful textures to hold interest without vocals. However, where you have dance producers at the core of Doves, you have a highly emotional songwriter at the core of Elbow. Despite constantly dipping into an overflowing well of sonic tricks (the non-wank variety), each of Guy Garvey's songs would be able to survive with a lone acoustic providing accompaniment. Judging from Garvey's rough-hewn voice, he could be forgiven for sinking into a misery-addled torpor; thankfully, that's not the case -- given enough instrumental prodding from his cohorts, Garvey's voice can soar and seethe with the best of them. Tally these qualities and you have a record that glides above the host of bands who prattle aimlessly about their pin cushion-frail souls. After all, Asleep in the Back is more about getting through and sustaining than it is flat-out moping or asking for a hug. The tempos might not ever exceed mid-level, and half of the songs might exceed five minutes, but the record is anything but a difficult listen or tough to wade through. When the acoustic strumming, piano twinkles, liquid basslines, and muted horns are this engaging and well arranged, it's difficult to wring yourself from the web. If you can only spare eight minutes to test drive the record, go straight to "Newborn," the sweeping centerpiece with enough catharsis and heavenly Talk Talk-informed organ that you'd swear it came from the second side of Catherine Wheel's Adam and Eve. Stacked against other debuts out of Manchester, theirs is no disgrace. ~ Andy Kellman
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Alternative & Indie - Released October 11, 2019 | Polydor Records

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"Loss is a part of a life this long" sings Elbow frontman Guy Garvey on "Dexter & Sinister," the sanguine opening cut on the venerable post-Brit-pop group's eighth full-length effort Giants of All Sizes. The follow-up to 2017's relatively buoyant and unsurprisingly chart-topping Little Fictions, the nine-track set retains the hard-won wisdom of its predecessor, but there's a strong current of unease running through the proceedings. Awash in the damp grays and socio-political malaise of the Brexit era, Garvey and company deftly navigate the brackish waters with an amalgam of empathy and steely acceptance. Filtering the discord through their signature blend of dreamy, prog-tinged Brit-pop and pragmatic, yet erudite working-class poetry, the band looks to glitchy electronics and lurching beats early on in the proceedings before settling into more familiar midtempo and piano-forward balladry. "Dexter & Sinister," with its knotty rhythms, elliptical melody, and arm-hair-raising guest vocal from Jesca Hoop, sets an awfully high bar, but the hymn-like "Seven Veils," which manages to feel both meditative and propulsive, and the slow-burning "Delayed 3:15" are textural marvels that, like most Elbow songs, reward repeated listenings. Garvey remains the group's greatest asset. With his warm flannel croon, devotion to friends and family, and innate ability to find small stories within much larger frameworks -- "Baby, empires crumble all the time/pay it no mind/you just happened to witness mine" -- he and his bandmates have been helping to make the existential pain of life relatable for over two decades. The aptly named Giants of All Sizes draws from every era of the group, and lands somewhere between the widescreen dynamics of their Mercury Prize-short-listed debut, the workmanlike grandiosity of Seldom Seen Kid, and the aching melancholy of The Take Off and Landing of Everything. ~ James Christopher Monger
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Alternative & Indie - Released February 3, 2017 | Polydor Records

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Arriving three years after 2014's The Take Off and Landing of Everything -- a span of time that also saw leader Guy Garvey taking a busman's holiday in 2015 with Courting the Squall -- Little Fictions showcases a different but eminently recognizable Elbow. Seven albums into their career, the band remains a deliberate, contemplative group -- such somberness is a part of their DNA -- but Little Fictions feels optimistic, particularly when it's compared to the elegiac The Take Off and Landing of Everything. Where that album dwelled on the idea of loss, Little Fictions is its counterbalance, a record about new beginnings. This change is evident within Garvey's lyrics, which are filled with romantic images and hope, but the impressive thing about Little Fictions is how there is a shift within the group's music. That music is evident from the very sound of the record: it's lighter on the surface yet complex at its foundation, giving the illusion of a constantly moving, silvery shimmer. Elbow emphasize electronic rhythms, sometimes even conjuring a semblance of a groove, yet they still find space for chiming guitars, such as in "All Disco," which sounds like R.E.M. doing their best Velvet Underground impression. Such ringing six-strings provide a connection to Elbow's indie beginnings, but the added electronic flair and percolating rhythms are an enhancement to the band's essential character, not a departure. By moving forward steadily, encompassing a changing present -- both in musical and personal terms -- Elbow wind up with a mature, resonant record. Little Fictions feels quietly hopeful, making it a tonic for troubled times. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Alternative & Indie - Released November 24, 2017 | Polydor Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released January 1, 2009 | Polydor Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released August 21, 2019 | Polydor Records

Alternative & Indie - Released October 11, 2019 | Polydor Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released November 24, 2017 | Polydor Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released March 30, 2009 | Polydor Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released January 1, 2014 | Polydor Records

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Rock - Released January 1, 2005 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

When Doves headed to the studio for the recording of their third album, 2005's Some Cities, they returned home to Manchester. With that kind of scenic inspiration and emotional attachment, Some Cities resulted in Doves' best of their career at that moment. It is mere coincidence that their musical mates, Elbow, have done the same for their third album, Leaders of the Free World. Such a coincidence is a bit comforting in the respect that Elbow do not stray from what they have previously done. Despite being cast as a gloomy bunch on their first two albums -- 2001's Asleep in the Back and 2004's Cast of Thousands -- Elbow trudge on as an emotional band. Singer/songwriter Guy Garvey doesn't wallow in failed relationships as much as he enjoys being cynical and playful about the world around him. Sure, Elbow's more melodic, pensive moments such as "The Stops" and "The Everthere" are classic heartbreakers, with piano-driven melodies lush in melancholic acoustic guitars and Garvey's somber disposition. Leaders of the Free World really comes to life when Elbow give in, allowing these songs to grow into something glorious. Album opener "Station Approach" and "Forget Myself" are brilliant examples of this. "Forget Myself" metaphorically points fingers at a media-obsessed culture that is equally blasé about its own issues. Garvey throws his hands in the air, sighing to himself to "look for a plot where I can bury my broken heart." The album's title track also criticizes a very questionable political system, demanding, "I need to see the Commander in Chief and remind what was passed on to me" as a storm of electric guitars mirrors an anxious, waxing delivery by the band itself -- "Passing the gun from father to feckless son, we're climbing a landslide where only the good die young." Elbow are a great band regardless of what it takes for them to find their footing. Leaders of the Free World is a bit more rock & roll than not, with guts and heart, because Elbow have finally embraced their powerful, surrounding space this time out. [The U.S. version includes a limited-edition DVD of videos for each song on Leaders of the Free World.] ~ MacKenzie Wilson
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Rock - Released January 1, 2012 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

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Alternative & Indie - Released January 1, 2012 | Polydor Records

Culled from singles that date back to 2001, a track from the EP Newborn ("None One"), and B-sides from 2011's well-received Build a Rocket Boys!, Dead in the Boot offers up a rare glimpse into the often insular song-building world of the Manchester outfit. Decidedly less bombastic and ornate than the majority of the band's more anthemic album offerings, Dead in the Boot is a quieter, more abstract affair that feels surprisingly autonomous. Elbow have always straddled the line between stadium-ready house band and a band that just wants to stay in the house, lock the doors, and be left alone to die, and it's the latter persuasion that informs the majority of the collection's 13 cuts. The brittle "Whisper Grass" leads things off in a decidedly mellow direction, but like many of the band's best moments, it recoils and strikes when the listener least expects it, spewing a sinewy stream of distorted venom around the two-minute mark that changes the whole timber of the song. Likewise, the brooding "McGreggor" coolly struts its bluesy swagger before allowing Guy Garvey to indulge in some "Grounds for Divorce"-inspired caterwauling, probably due in large part to the track's live setting. That said, the rest of Dead in the Boot barely moves the VU meter, choosing instead to occupy that creepy corner of the room where doubt, fear, shame, indulgence, and misplaced rage go to fester when the clock sneaks past two in the morning, the rain flirts with ice, and there's only a single, half-wet cigarette left in the pack. ~ James Christopher Monger
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Alternative & Indie - Released August 1, 2019 | Polydor Records

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Rock - Released January 1, 2012 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

When Doves headed to the studio for the recording of their third album, 2005's Some Cities, they returned home to Manchester. With that kind of scenic inspiration and emotional attachment, Some Cities resulted in Doves' best of their career at that moment. It is mere coincidence that their musical mates, Elbow, have done the same for their third album, Leaders of the Free World. Such a coincidence is a bit comforting in the respect that Elbow do not stray from what they have previously done. Despite being cast as a gloomy bunch on their first two albums -- 2001's Asleep in the Back and 2004's Cast of Thousands -- Elbow trudge on as an emotional band. Singer/songwriter Guy Garvey doesn't wallow in failed relationships as much as he enjoys being cynical and playful about the world around him. Sure, Elbow's more melodic, pensive moments such as "The Stops" and "The Everthere" are classic heartbreakers, with piano-driven melodies lush in melancholic acoustic guitars and Garvey's somber disposition. Leaders of the Free World really comes to life when Elbow give in, allowing these songs to grow into something glorious. Album opener "Station Approach" and "Forget Myself" are brilliant examples of this. "Forget Myself" metaphorically points fingers at a media-obsessed culture that is equally blasé about its own issues. Garvey throws his hands in the air, sighing to himself to "look for a plot where I can bury my broken heart." The album's title track also criticizes a very questionable political system, demanding, "I need to see the Commander in Chief and remind what was passed on to me" as a storm of electric guitars mirrors an anxious, waxing delivery by the band itself -- "Passing the gun from father to feckless son, we're climbing a landslide where only the good die young." Elbow are a great band regardless of what it takes for them to find their footing. Leaders of the Free World is a bit more rock & roll than not, with guts and heart, because Elbow have finally embraced their powerful, surrounding space this time out. [The U.S. version includes a limited-edition DVD of videos for each song on Leaders of the Free World.] ~ MacKenzie Wilson
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Alternative & Indie - Released January 1, 2003 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

There doesn't appear to be an Elbow consensus: they are their own band; they are the Coldplay it's OK to like; they are the Talk Talk for people who've never heard Talk Talk (or Catherine Wheel); they are somewhere between Supertramp and Superchunk; they are part of a succession of over-introspective, twaddle-peddling British rock bands. They are most of these things -- the positive things, at least -- at various points. On Cast of Thousands, Elbow's second album, the group does deserve to take its rightful place as one of the most respectable rock bands going. What separates this album from the debut isn't all that apparent on the surface. Downcast songs about relationships remain the stock in trade, but the sound has made natural advancements and the quality control is less prone to malfunctioning. In other words, they have followed through on whatever promise Asleep in the Back held; you could sense this would happen, just as you could sense that, after Lazer Guided Melodies, Spiritualized would make an even better record the next time out. However predictable, the minor differences add up to a lot. More so than ever, Elbow's greatest asset is that the band is capable of making big sounds without being bombastic or flashy. And they've tempered the characteristics that got them tagged as sad sacks, although that fact is mostly apparent in the lyrics ("place" rhymes with "virgin mother what's-her-face"; the payoff line in opener "Ribcage" goes "I wanted to explode, to pull my ribs apart and let the sun inside"). The only setback? Gospel choirs. Hopefully, at some point before they make their next album, they'll realize that their songs don't need background vocals from an entire congregation in order to feel redemptive -- or powerful. [V2 issued the album in the U.S. five months after the original U.K. release.] ~ Andy Kellman
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Alternative & Indie - Released February 3, 2017 | Polydor Records

Arriving three years after 2014's The Take Off and Landing of Everything -- a span of time that also saw leader Guy Garvey taking a busman's holiday in 2015 with Courting the Squall -- Little Fictions showcases a different but eminently recognizable Elbow. Seven albums into their career, the band remains a deliberate, contemplative group -- such somberness is a part of their DNA -- but Little Fictions feels optimistic, particularly when it's compared to the elegiac The Take Off and Landing of Everything. Where that album dwelled on the idea of loss, Little Fictions is its counterbalance, a record about new beginnings. This change is evident within Garvey's lyrics, which are filled with romantic images and hope, but the impressive thing about Little Fictions is how there is a shift within the group's music. That music is evident from the very sound of the record: it's lighter on the surface yet complex at its foundation, giving the illusion of a constantly moving, silvery shimmer. Elbow emphasize electronic rhythms, sometimes even conjuring a semblance of a groove, yet they still find space for chiming guitars, such as in "All Disco," which sounds like R.E.M. doing their best Velvet Underground impression. Such ringing six-strings provide a connection to Elbow's indie beginnings, but the added electronic flair and percolating rhythms are an enhancement to the band's essential character, not a departure. By moving forward steadily, encompassing a changing present -- both in musical and personal terms -- Elbow wind up with a mature, resonant record. Little Fictions feels quietly hopeful, making it a tonic for troubled times. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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Elbow in the magazine
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