Sound — 8
Electric Soft Parade's fourth installment No Need To Be Downhearted on Better Looking Records brings the Brit-pop quartet from Brighton, England out from their folk-pop shell and into lusher electro-pop atmospherics. The brothers Alex and Tom White who are the core of this band often refer to the music on this album as being Uber lush. The compositions take basic guitar and vocal melodies performed by the brothers and add scintillating textures of keyboard flitters played by Alex and toe tapping beats performed by bassist Matthew Thwaites and drummer Matt Priest. Their somber piano spills on tracks like No Need To Be Downhearted, Part 1 and No Need To Be Downhearted, Part 2 suck in the listener with dripping vocals and slow rising crescendos that deflate into peaceful epilogues at the tail end of the songs. The electro-pop cushions on numbers like Life In The Back Seat and If That's The Case Then I Don't Know have enjoyable keyboard flutters and fat bass hooks reminiscent of Razorlight and The Kooks. The avant-pop psychedelics on Shore Song are adorned with angelic chimes liken to Super Furry Animals and The Unicorns. A few songs have dewdrops of brushed guitar strokes like Secrets and Appropriate Ending which recall The Redwalls and Elbow. The cruising tempo on songs like Have You Ever Felt Like It's Too Late and Misunderstanding have soft-pop guitar harmonies and leisurely coasting melodic transitions while the country flange in the guitar series for Come Back Inside have a floral prairie-land strumming. The songs are a music feast projecting so many more textures than any of the band's previous releases including a few excerpts of brass sections provided by Phil Summer on cornet which thicken up their synth-pop atmospheres.
Lyrics — 7
The lyrics have a private meaning, like portions taken from someone's diary. The lyrics are narratives as the speaker talks about being a risk-taker but spends time second guessing those choices and often needs approval to have the confidence to go out on a limb. The song If That's The Case Then I Don't Know reflects this in the lyrics, Our lives they may be miniature but they are lives, lives just the same/ He said 'I've an idea for a life, to break free of all this and get right'/ I know it's far-fetched and it's sad but too bad/ And if it's all right with you now/ I'll get as far away as I can somehow/ And if you're mobile you should come/ Would be fun.
Overall Impression — 8
Catchy melodies with the synth-pop elegance of the Doves and tight harmonies that can rival Oasis. No Need To Be Downhearted out shines ESP's previous albums which include their 2002 debut Holes In The Walls, their 2003 sophomore disc An American Adventure, and their 2005 EP The Human Body. Alex White is credited for composing these tracks which shows how his songwriting has progressed by incorporating mutable aspects into his songs. I love that he stepped outside of ESP's comfort zone and took some risks with new harmonies and textures that really enhanced the straight up folk-pop guitar and vocal melodies. Acoustic numbers are great because musicians can't cheat on them. The flaws are visible but providing solid rhythms and ambient atmospheres gives the melodies that plushness which ESP keeps talking about in interviews.