Mostly Autumn have been around for a long time. They did the unthinkable by besting their greatest album, 2012’s The Ghost Moon Orchestra, with 2018’s White Rainbow. And here they are again with an imaginative and soaring offering. This new album is called Graveyard Star (a title I love), and it released on September 24th.
Mostly Autumn comes to us from the UK. They’ve had some lineup changes over the years, most recently through the tragic loss of rhythm guitarist Liam Davison. The current lineup includes: Olivia Sparnenn-Josh on vocals, Bryan Josh on guitars and vocals, Chris Johnson on guitars, Iain Jennings on keyboards, Angela Gordon on flute and keyboards, Andy Smith on bass, and Henry Rogers on drums.
The band plays progressive folk rock with Floydian leanings. They love huge, climactic choruses, soaring keyboards, emotional guitar solos, sauntering beats and rhythms, and misty lyrics. There is a fog of mystery that lies about this band; something that keeps me entranced with what they do.
The question on my mind when this album released was “can they do it again?” Could the band produce an album that bests their previous works? For me, the answer is both yes and no. While this album is better than the vast majority of their discography, I do feel like the two albums mentioned above are still better. Let me explain why.
Graveyard Star is a wonderful record. At one hour and fifteen minutes in length (not counting the bonus CD), the album runs for quite a long time. Now, I will admit that this 12-track album doesn’t really feel that long, but the album still suffers slightly from a tendency to listener fatigue. The album simply isn’t as concise or intuitive as White Rainbow, for instance, which felt like every note and every moment were planned to an emotional tee. What’s ironic about this, though, is that White Rainbow is actually longer than this album. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around why it is that White Rainbow ends before I want it to, and Graveyard Star feels ever so slightly stretched out, to the point I can’t usually listen to it all in one sitting.
That said, this is the only criticism I have. The music is just as bright and beautiful as I expected. Olivia’s voice is humongous once again, hitting some crazy notes. I also like the inclusion of some electronic elements here and there; and the album’s tendency to lean into the synth, creating some ambient moments that I really like. I also like how hefty and weighty the drumming feels.
There are definite highlights strewn throughout the record. The opener, the title track, is exquisite, to say the least; it feels towering and spacious and even a little gritty. “The Harder That You Hurt” probably has the most addictive chorus here, being a ballad with guts and strength. “Razor Blade” is absolutely stunning with its cinema, emotion, and breadth. At this point, we are only halfway through!
I will say (and this just occurred to me) that this record flows and blends together a bit more than some of their previous. I have a harder time calling out favorite tracks, but an easy time remembering specific moments that I love. But sometimes I can’t remember which tracks contain those moments. Case in point: the song “Spirit of Mankind” is a good song with a super strong second half instrumental. The atmosphere is so rich and memorable, but I typically can’t remember which song it is.
The entire second half of the album feels this way. There are 6 tracks here, and most of them blend together in my mind. They are all pretty similar, as beautiful as they are. The exceptions are “Free to Fly”, which is mostly instrumental and sort of ambient, and then the 12-minute closer, “Turn Around Slowly”. This song is worth the wait, in my eyes, because it is one of the best overall. It transitions several times, entering new ideas and auras. The last few minutes don’t give much of a pause to catch our breath, either, as it climaxes with gusto and splendor. It’s a fantastic song.
Mostly Autumn are still a potent, vibrant group. Their music is getting more and more immense, feeling lofty and human. I do think Graveyard Star tries to capitalize on the success and brilliance of White Rainbow, even giving a couple subtle callbacks to the lyrics for that record, and so I think this album will always be overshadowed in that way. Still, it is a gorgeous work all the way through, and I suspect it will be one of those albums that, years later, I find to be better than I first thought.
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