Sound — 10
An incredibly beautiful comeback from their 4-year break, Travis' sound has been furtherly defined, with peaceful acoustic melodies that you might have come to recognise from their previous albums. However, they also have a few heavier numbers, especially "Selfish Jean" and "Eyes Wide Open". This hasn't changed their sound one bit though in my opinion - still a very peaceful, relaxing album. This album combines many influences musically from other instruments other than just the typical guitar-drums-vocals mix that most British bands now follow. "Selfish Jean", "Closer", "Battleships" and "My eyes" all contain violins, cellos and the like, to add to the humble yet atmospheric sound that Travis achieve. The introduction of female backing vocalists (namely Julia Stone in "Battleships" and KT Tunstall in "Under the Moonlight") also work to enhance their peaceful, melodic sound.
Lyrics — 9
Fran Healy (lead vocalist) continues to show his vocal skills and vocal range, changing from beautifully smooth, flowing styles in "Closer", "Big Chair" and "Battleships" especially, that make me frankly want to hug someone, to more country and blues-influenced harsher vocals in "Eyes Wide Open". The one fault I have with the vocals, apart from slight dislike of the harsher vocal styles, is that with the addition of female backing talent in KT Tunstall and Julia Stone, they haven't let this shine through as much as I'd like them to. That is to say, they're barely noticeable. But I'm not complaining - they do support Fran's high range very well. In terms of the lyrics themselves, Travis have continued with the expression of tales of love, both good and bad, with deep meaning. From the showing of the inevitability of it all in "3 times and you lose", there's a constant theme of acceptance in most of the songs; "Ahh Jean the slate is clean, I guess we're fine" - Selfish Jean, "But I'm trying to see your point of view" - My Eyes, "One night can turn all your colours to white; One night, it's easier said than done" - One Night. Some friendly but original metaphors are styled to avoid looking cheesy, with some of the more intricate ones said rather in haste, especially "You keep the chocolate biscuits wired to a car alarm". When the lyrics are harsh, reflecting upon doomed relationships or inevitability, the music reflects this. When the lyrics are soft, offering comfort (especially "Closer"), the music again reflects this. The lyrics comply with the music almost as one. However, if there's one song I must say the lyrics strike me as odd, that is in "New Amsterdam". It lacks the originality of the other songs, with overused metaphors to describe New York which frankly make me skip past this song. It's a shame to end on such an unoriginal note.
Overall Impression — 9
If I wanted to compare Travis to other artists, I'd like to say some of the British atmospheric, but sometimes understated, bands. Snow Patrol's collaberation with female artist Martha Wainwright and with other instruments besides guitars helping their style compares them very nicely to Travis. Lyrically they're very similar too - tales of love are dominant with both artists, but in a less-than-harsh way. "Selfish Jean" and "Eyes Wide Open" I'd be more inclined to compare to the Fratellis and The Kooks, but if you don't really like them, don't let that put you off buying it! That's only with two songs, and Fran's voice still shines through the instruments. "Closer", "Big Chair" and "Battleships" are arguably my three favourites from this album. Closer was the first track I heard from the album when I saw the music video on television, and it struck me; not only musically! If you haven't seen the video for it, DO!! A strange appearance of Ben Stiller in an uninteractive supermarket with Fran walking in dressed as a teddy bear makes this one to watch. The vocal style of "Battleships" is something that for the first few times I could have sworn I recognised. A beautiful song, it incorporates some Lord Of the Rings sound in the first couple of lines with harmonising on the word "Love" not too disimilar from something out of "Neverending Story". Awesome. I love how, even after 4 years of taking a break to record an album that'll blow people away, they haven't changed their style. Acoustic melodies and Fran's voice with the instruments collaberating still shines through, but without saying "We're Travis. This album rocks. Buy it". Even though that's what I think of it. This album alone's made me a Travis fan. If it were stolen? I'm not very aggressive so I'd run away back home. But I'd hate the person who stole it all the same. Don't forget to listen to the end of "New Amsterdam" for the bonus track! It's on at about 6:00.