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The Pineapple thief: Magnolia

Album Review

Don’t be fooled by the album’s title: there’s nothing bland or neutral about the tenth release from Bruce Soord’s emotionally complex prog outfit.

Given its whimsical cover art and title, you might be forgiven for approaching this album with some trepidation. The very word ‘magnolia’ hints at blandness, and here it’s presented by a group whose music has been anything but that throughout their career. Could it be that the Somerset prog band’s trademark sumptuous melodies and blazing guitars have been replaced with something less invigorating and more, well, beige? Mercifully, nothing could be further from the truth.

Here The Pineapple Thief have retained the central assets that made their last few glorious albums so incisive, and they’ve added a certain panache here which proves their ongoing desire to evolve. That constant development is part of what that makes Bruce Soord’s unit such a special act. They’ve evolved from the singer/guitarist’s simple, unrestrained home studio project, back in 1999, to a full band who have a knack for writing layered, catchy songs with embracing, emotionally wrought vocals.

It’s a mystery why they remain a cult act when so many of their lesser contemporaries have found themselves on the mainstream arena circuit. From Magnolia’s opening notes it’s apparent that The Pineapple Thief’s tenth (tenth!) album could see them make that long-overdue breakthrough.

Part of their charm lies in their ability to construct intricate songs around what appear to be minimalist musical motifs. Take Simple As That, which is built around Soord’s simple guitar riff, before multi-layered keyboards and dense guitars slowly build the track to its inevitable crescendo. The Pineapple Thief’s effervescent stage energy has been captured in the studio here – you can imagine this song will be unstoppable when performed live.

An elegant acoustic guitar opens Don’t Tell Me, which soon develops with Jon Sykes’ neat bassline, while the inclusion of strings was an inspired move – this really sends the track to a higher plane. It’s an exquisite composition that’s enhanced by the delicate vocals, narrating the type of personal, cathartic tales of romance that Soord excels at. ‘So what does it take,’ he implores, ‘to reel me in to your embrace?’ 

Far too many bands’ lyrics are an afterthought, but The Pineapple Thief’s songs are driven by lyrics from the heart, and their star shines all the brighter for it. The title track continues that bearing, with a lyrical pining that never becomes mawkish or predictable, set to a luxuriant melody with the strings once again adding class and veneer to an already potent song. _Seasons Past _captures the band at their most mournful. With a certain, defiant sadness pervading both the leisurely music and vocals, they explore the unstoppable passage of time. It may sound depressing, but, rather, it’s actually uplifting, in much the same way that another great modern band, Anathema, keep their melancholia bright and inspirational.

The same can be said of_ From Me_, which is, superficially, downbeat but again there’s a splendour to the sadness that’s palpable. It makes you wonder if there’s any subject Soord couldn’t buff to a positive shine.

Magnolia is a perfectly balanced album. One of its livelier moments is the Muse-like bombast of Sense Of Fear, the album’s highpoint and the ideal counterpoint to some of the more laid-back elegance here. Closer Bond is a track so lush and cinematic, you begin to wonder it was actually written by the 007 soundtracker John Barry himself. Indeed, with no noticeable lyrical references to the song title, Soord must have been aware of the musical similarities before the song was christened, presumably doing so with a knowing smile.

 There are occasional hints of recycling from previous records, passing moments when there’s a familiar vocal phrasing or riff that recalls the staccato guitars so prevalent on 2012’s All The Wars. The opening vocals of Sense Of Fear are reminiscent of Someone Pull Me Out from that very album. These are probably musical tics from the composer rather than a deliberate attempt to repeat past glories, but it’s something that they may need to be aware of in future.

Whether Magnolia quite matches the triumph of All The Wars, still their best album to date, is open to debate. But still, this is a fearless, consistently lovely and beautifully executed album that’s sure to be cherished. Nothing bland about that…

Given its whimsical cover art and title, you might be forgiven for approaching this album with some trepidation. The very word ‘magnolia’ hints at blandness, and here it’s presented by a group whose music has been anything but that throughout their career. Could it be that the Somerset prog band’s trademark sumptuous melodies and blazing guitars have been replaced with something less invigorating and more, well, beige? Mercifully, nothing could be further from the truth. 

Here The Pineapple Thief have retained the central assets that made their last few glorious albums so incisive, and they’ve added a certain panache here which proves their ongoing desire to evolve. That constant development is part of what that makes Bruce Soord’s unit such a special act. They’ve evolved from the singer/guitarist’s simple, unrestrained home studio project, back in 1999, to a full band who have a knack for writing layered, catchy songs with embracing, emotionally wrought vocals.

It’s a mystery why they remain a cult act when so many of their lesser contemporaries have found themselves on the mainstream arena circuit. From Magnolia’s opening notes it’s apparent that The Pineapple Thief’s tenth (tenth!) album could see them make that long-overdue breakthrough.

Part of their charm lies in their ability to construct intricate songs around what appear to be minimalist musical motifs. Take Simple As That, which is built around Soord’s simple guitar riff, before multi-layered keyboards and dense guitars slowly build the track to its inevitable crescendo. The Pineapple Thief’s effervescent stage energy has been captured in the studio here – you can imagine this song will be unstoppable when performed live.

An elegant acoustic guitar opens Don’t Tell Me, which soon develops with Jon Sykes’ neat bassline, while the inclusion of strings was an inspired move – this really sends the track to a higher plane. It’s an exquisite composition that’s enhanced by the delicate vocals, narrating the type of personal, cathartic tales of romance that Soord excels at. ‘So what does it take,’ he implores, ‘to reel me in to your embrace?’ 

Far too many bands’ lyrics are an afterthought, but The Pineapple Thief’s songs are driven by lyrics from the heart, and their star shines all the brighter for it. The title track continues that bearing, with a lyrical pining that never becomes mawkish or predictable, set to a luxuriant melody with the strings once again adding class and veneer to an already potent song. Seasons Past captures the band at their most mournful. With a certain, defiant sadness pervading both the leisurely music and vocals, they explore the unstoppable passage of time. It may sound depressing, but, rather, it’s actually uplifting, in much the same way that another great modern band, Anathema, keep their melancholia bright and inspirational.

The same can be said of From Me, which is, superficially, downbeat but again there’s a splendour to the sadness that’s palpable. It makes you wonder if there’s any subject Soord couldn’t buff to a positive shine.

Magnolia is a perfectly balanced album. One of its livelier moments is the Muse-like bombast of Sense Of Fear, the album’s highpoint and the ideal counterpoint to some of the more laid-back elegance here. Closer Bond is a track so lush and cinematic, you begin to wonder it was actually written by the 007 soundtracker John Barry himself. Indeed, with no noticeable lyrical references to the song title, Soord must have been aware of the musical similarities before the song was christened, presumably doing so with a knowing smile.

  There are occasional hints of recycling from previous records, passing moments when there’s a familiar vocal phrasing or riff that recalls the staccato guitars so prevalent on 2012’s All The Wars. The opening vocals of Sense Of Fear are reminiscent of Someone Pull Me Out from that very album. These are probably musical tics from the composer rather than a deliberate attempt to repeat past glories, but it’s something that they may need to be aware of in future.

Whether Magnolia quite matches the triumph of All The Wars, still their best album to date, is open to debate. But still, this is a fearless, consistently lovely and beautifully executed album that’s sure to be cherished. Nothing bland about that…

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