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-isq: Too

Bruce Lindsay By

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-isq: Too
Too is the second album from London-based quartet -isq. No surprise there. The slightly odd presentation of the band's name remains in place and continues to trouble the usually faultless activities of the planet's internet search engines. The line-up from debut album -isq (Cheesepeas Records, 2013) is still intact. The band's distinctive "every silver lining has a cloud" approach to songwriting—lyrics by singer Irene Serra—was a strength of the debut and is also pretty much at the core of these tracks, the lyrics' worldview carried through by Serra's vocals. All of which is excellent news.

Too consolidates the -isq style that was already apparent on the band's debut. Serra's voice mixes world-weariness, disappointment and despair in equal measure yet never descends into bathos or self-pity. Bassist Richard Sadler, pianist John Crawford and drummer Chris Nickolls work beautifully as a trio, creating musical atmospheres that fit perfectly with the narrative of each song. Musically, there's nothing quite as urgent as the first album's "TV Face" or as stripped-down as "This Bird Has Flown"—the result is a more consistent sound, but it's still one that's full of intriguing harmonies and varied time signatures.

For the most part these are songs that tell of the heartbreaks of life and love. This is, of course, the sort of tale that's behind some of the best-loved songs of all time, including Smokey Robinson and the Miracles' "The Tears Of A Clown." Nickoll's emphatic drum phrase opens -isq's own "Tears Of A Clown," a song whose bass line resembles Paul Weller's "You Do Something To Me" (as at least one other review has pointed out) while its lyrics diverge from the central conceit of the Motown classic: Serra isn't displaying such tears, instead they're where ..."some of my favorite things lie..." Incidentally, there are some understated male backing vocals on the song—gentle and effective, but sadly uncredited.

It's the mid-tempo "Falling Stars" that comes across as the most positive and optimistic song, musically at least. Sadler's bass solo is gorgeous—confident, graceful and economical. Lyrically, things aren't so unambiguous. Serra sings—her voice at its lightest and most fragile—of someone who ..."loved me well, loved me carefully," but just like the falling stars of the title ..."we burned too bright, we aimed too high."

The achingly beautiful "Still Life" is possibly the finest example of -isq's talent for crafting truly affecting songs—Crawford's fluid, lyrical, piano at its heart, Serra's voice so filled with emotion that it seems ready to break at any second. A couple of years on from its debut, -isq is perfecting its craft, becoming one of the most recognisable bands on the scene. Too is an insight into a very special musical world.

Track Listing

Reflections; Falling Stars; Secret Garden; Still Life; As I Lay You Down; Tears Of A Clown; Zion; Light And Shade.

Personnel

Irene Serra: vocals; John Crawford: piano; Richard Sadler: double bass; Chris Nickolls: drums.

Album information

Title: Too | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Cheesepeas Records

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