Arts & Culture

91 Days In Isolation: Notes of frustration with touches of melancholy7 min read

91 Days In Isolation. This is The Slow Readers Club’s second album in 2020 is out now and available to stream everywhere.

Rating: 4/5

91 Days In Isolation, released on October 23, is an album that expresses all the dark and haunting energies of days and months of isolation. At the same time, it promises a world full of wonder and recovery.

The Slow Readers Club is an English rock band from Manchester composed of Aaron Starkie (lead singer), Kurtis Starkie (guitarist and backup vocalist), James Ryan (bassist), and David Whitworth (drummer). During the UK COVID-19 lockdown, the band has never stopped interacting with their fans – and they never stopped writing either.

Throughout the lockdown, the band released videos of fan-selected cover songs, ‘watch together’ sessions of previous shows, fan listening parties of their previous albums, and an unforgettable acoustic session surrounded by 21,000 vacant seats in a hauntingly desolate Manchester Arena. All for the venue’s 25th-anniversary celebrations, while also working on this album.

Speaking of the writing process of ’91 Days In Isolation’, lead singer Starkie said:

“This collection of songs was written remotely during the UK Covid-19 lockdown. With each band member sharing ideas over the internet, the songs were pieced together at home. When the lockdown lifted we took the songs to Edwin Street Recording Studios in Bury and recorded this album with our producer Phil Bulleyment. We are proud to present 91 Days in Isolation.”

Barricades

This song immediately starts off with catchy riffs and strong dynamics on the bass and percussion. That makes it a solid rock track to begin the album with. The chorus showcases a groovy melody on the guitar that is amazingly easy to get hooked on. The bridge is arguably the best part of the track. With an anticipating pulse on the drums and words of “another headline, another sorry scene” sung repeatedly, it leaves a lasting chill.

Everything I Own

This track would have almost been a sure favourite if not for tracks like ‘Yet Again’ and ‘Like I Wanted To’. The haunting guitar melody captivates the ears instantly. The experience only gets better and better with every increasing layer of percussion added from thereon after. The underlying pulse keeps the heartbeat up.

The slow vocal melody starts with poignant lyrics of lost love which are made raw with increasing layers of accompaniment, stand-out cymbals clashing, falsettos, and progressively stronger dynamics. The words “I gave you the best of me, gave everything I own” are lingering and sung with so much sadness. This song is worth it for the chills during those few seconds alone, but boy am I glad this is the longest song of the album.

Yet Again

Arguably the best track in the album and maybe my favourite. They say repetition is the singular way to enchant the brain. This is definitely the case for this track – the phrases “Yet Again” and “Dead Against” are bouncing edge to edge in my brain. The song feels like angry echoes in an empty room with too many walls. An emotion I could definitely relate to during the lockdown.

The track starts with the words of darkness such as “Dead against” and “Self-destruction” but ends with words of hope like “We will rise” and “World full of wonder”, which are backdropped in a white background in the Official Lyric Video. It is the perfect depiction of the darker places our minds might have wondered to at the beginning of lockdown, versus a perfect ending with the promise of a hopeful future.

Lost Summer

This song feels like it wants to give us the summer we lost this year. The slower melody and softer sound surely echo a melancholic atmosphere, but also makes me want to slow dance. Like you might in a foreign land on vacation, or in your local sunny outdoors in a picnic with loved ones. Something about the guitar tone and the soft vocals throughout the verses also feels dreamy. It makes me imagine the summer holiday I wish I had.

Lost Summer, Credits: Sonic PR

The Greatest Escape

This song instantly takes me back to the old ages of rock, with the guitar strums ending the second and fourth bars – greatest escape achieved. Yet another set of haunting melodies and vocals delivering an easy to listen to yet engaging piece.

Wanted Much More

For the first time in the album, a guitar isn’t introducing the song. Instead, a set of chords and synth eases the listener into this song and it’s a timely and welcomed change. The whole song is an extended welcomed change. The vocals are quite different from the other songs in the album; it reminds me more of the singing you might hear at an opera. This again creates an evocative and lingering experience. It’s paired with a set of calls and responses which also exits you out of the song.

Two Minutes Hate

Now comes ‘Two Minutes Hate’ with three minutes and 25 seconds of catchy riffs, pleasant drum beats, and soft dynamics. As well as a passionate chorus and even more passionate lyrics. Commenting on the lyrics, lead singer Starkie says:

“Lyrically it’s a song about the outpouring of hatred and vitriol on social media and me asking myself if I should engage with it. It is an acknowledgment that there is something in the human condition that craves an outlet to unleash our rage and social media provides that. ‘Two Minutes Hate’ (a reference to the daily ritual in George Orwell’s 1984 where party members gather to scream at images of enemies of the state).”

It strikes a resemblance to the lyrics of their ninth track on their previous album ‘Every word’. In that album, the chorus sings “all hate does harm” repeatedly and distressingly. I personally appreciate the call back of themes from the previous album. They exercise consistency and passion to deliver their message.

Like I Wanted To

The tone of the album is further softened in the flow from ‘Two Minutes Hate’ to the final track, ‘Like I Wanted To’.

The track starts with a gentle melody and a gentler accompaniment playing on the piano. This comes across as refreshing since there is a lack of spotlights on the piano from the previous tracks. Words of regret then set the mood for the song which is cemented further by the lyrics. For example: “No you never know for sure the last goodbye”. What else do you expect from a track titled ‘Like I Wanted To’?

This tone is further carried by chilling melodies on the violin which is also used to fasten the pace of the song into a more desperate, running-out-of-time, atmosphere. This ultimately leads to a heavier instrumental and a shocking chorus (I’ll let you find that out by yourself). The ending of the album was anything but an anti-climactic experience for me — I think I could write a love song about this song.

Final Thoughts

91 Days In Isolation perfectly echoes all the emotions that we’ve all been through the last few months since lockdown. The flow of the songs also feels persistent with the lockdown theme announced in the title. In that our spectrum of frustrations and melancholy came in bursts, randomness, and repetition. The perfectly placed highs and lows make the album tick just as much as the tracks themselves. This is just such a solid album; I cannot recommend it enough.

The band also recorded an acoustic version of certain tracks. This includes ‘Yet Again’, ‘Two Minutes Hate’, and ‘Like I Wanted To’. This is a perfect selection to showcase the album and performed with great expression and artistry. Their commitment to fans is remarkable and speaks volumes about their passion for their music.

Tanjin Huda

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