Released 24th November
Courage and the Stone records
In a world where many take the easy route to establish themselves in the music industry, (yes X-Factor contestants, I’m aiming my scornful glare at you) Thomas George, a.k.a The Lion and the Wolf, establishes himself as an artist willing to suffer for his art. A lengthy stint of sleeping on floors and more gigs than you can shake a stick at make it difficult not to admire a man who quit his job to earn his stripes the old fashioned way, avec a rather impressive beard.
Through this toil we get Symptoms, George’s debut effort which throws away the dime-a-dozen dynamic of ‘man and an acoustic guitar’ for arrangements brimming with activity. There is no lacking in surprises on this album, most notably a sitar feature in the aptly named ‘The Lion and the Wolf’, showcasing George’s heavy armoury of influences.
Opener ‘Bandages’ quirky, indie-folk arrangement can be likened to the work of Glasgow outfit Belle and Sebastian with subtle harmonies that pay homage to Simon and Garfunkel. I would be hard pressed not to liken George’s soft and subdued vocals to the melancholic whispers of Elliott Smith. The follow up track ‘Colour’ could very easily have appeared on a Smith B-side.
The sustain of a haunting church-like organ sits atop of the rich, instrument heavy arrangement in dreamy ballad ‘Ghosts On Trinity’ showing that church hall’s can be an under-utilised setting. A powerful melancholy befalls this album, a perfect soundtrack for the wistful reflector. ‘The Hole That It Leaves’ maintains this mood to perfection, a slow burning tale about the death of George’s sibling’s friend, which builds to a fitting ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ ending, horns and all.
The closing track ‘Green’ is a life affirming, upbeat crescendo (it isn’t all doom and gloom) with a powerful backing of heavy kicks and crashes, piano and distorted guitar which has an air of Bon Iver’s self titled LP.
As a connoisseur of such melancholic themes, one could quite happily imagine listening to Symptoms on a rainy evening or a winter’s day, but it isn’t all smooth sailing. At 13 tracks in length, it seems as if some songs merely act as filler (‘Curtain Call’), and the pacing is somewhat unsure of itself.
Minor downfalls aside, if you need a fitting accompaniment to a reflective walk through the park on a winter’s day then look no further than Symptoms.