2014 saw the release of Matthew and the Atlas’ debut album and a turning point for the group. Their 2010 EPs, ‘To the North ’ and ‘Kingdom of Your Own ’ held some of my favourite songs to this day; rich, earthy and rustic. However, when they dropped Other Rivers it was clear that Hegarty had spent those four years experimenting and crafting a sound distinct to the band. It felt like a transition out of the barn and into the studio, all without losing a single drop of charm. This left me chomping at the bit to see where the group could take it.
Two long years on and it seems that the wait is finally over and now The Atlas are ready to drop their second album, Temples on the 22nd April ’16. In the run up to this, we’ve been teased with the month apart releases of two singles from the album, Elijah and Temple .
Elijah screams elements of their early work. The tone is slow and harmonic, yet deliberate – reminiscent of songs like Within The Rose and In Winter . The tale told is like that of a father’s worry; a yearning to lend guidance, but from a position of seeming powerlessness. Dark with religious imagery, the chorus takes the essence of this, whispering “Elijah, you’re too young to be lost / Elijah, don’t fade out on the cross” . Imagine the emotional investment of Sufjan Stevens mixed with the melodic ambience of Gregory Alan Isakov and you’ll be some way to understanding just how well this song grabs you.
Temple tells a very different tale. The tempo’s been upped and accompanied by a thicker sound closer to that of Other Rivers . It tells the grim coming of age of two kids trying to break free of a stagnant way of life. The piece rises and falls with two strong verses before coming to a powerful finish in a climactic instrumental with the motivational gusto of Woodkid; the kind of song best heard darting down country lanes on your childhood bike. The harsh crackling of guitar is the last thing heard before everything fades into the final lyrics, “We were just lonely kids” .
All in all, the two songs give us a taster of both old and new with magnetism enough to give me hope that this upcoming album is going to be one to rival the success of what’s preceded it. With track names like ‘Graveyard Parade’ , ‘Old Master’ and ‘Gutter Heart’ , it doesn’t promise to be the most uplifting collection, but then again, what’s a great story without great tragedy?