As you know, I bought Gatekeeper at the gig last week and I've played it about four or five times now. So here are some of my thoughts about it...
On the very first listen (bear in mind that this is also my first SW album) I must say that I was even slightly disappointed. I really enjoyed the gig even though I hadn't even heard most of the songs before, but on the first listen the album couldn't capture the same feeling.
However, there's no reason for anyone to get upset because of this - that's how I feel about pretty much every new album that I get in my hands! If I do for some reason like some album on the first listen, then in most cases (there are some exceptions of course) I end up disliking it... but Gatekeeper is one of those albums that need a bit more time and a few listens before you start appreciating it. And that's usually a very good sign. Only time will tell though, if I still keep discovering new and exciting things on the album after the tenth or the thirtieth listen, but so far Gatekeeper seems to be a promising candidate to join the relatively short list of my favourite albums.
Some more general comments about the album... I like the "poetic" style of the lyrics, although in some cases it wouldn't have been so necessary (in my opinion) to make all the verses rhyme so perfectly with each other (stroking rabbits -- nasty habits sounded a bit silly at first but I guess it makes sense...) I find some of the lyrics a bit difficult to understand even when I'm reading the booklet, but I guess that just makes the whole thing even more intriguing - I wonder if even native English speakers understand all of it? But hey, that's poetry!
The cover artwork is indeed good, but I think that Alice In The Underworld wins the "best cover art" contest. I don't really like the light brown colour on Gatekeeper - it makes it look a bit "cheap" (sorry for the harsh expression, couldn't think of a better one), some texture on it or a darker shade of brown could have looked a bit better if you ask me, but that's just a very very minor thing, and to be honest, I feel a bit stupid that I even bothered writing about it... :P
The booklet is top notch though, in fact I think it's the most stylish one that I've ever seen! (or at least in my top 5)
Here are a few words and thoughts about each song on the album too:
1 This Is The Story Of My Life
I think this is an excellent choice for the opening track of the album. It's a catchy tune and one of my instant favourites, but still not the best that the album has to offer. The whole band and all the instruments sound very good together in this one, which is typical for Scarlet's Well of course, and one of the reasons why I like the band.
2 Golden, It Is, Beautiful
I must disagree with M's M on this one - so far this is my least favourite track on the album! Don't get me wrong, it's still not a bad song at all, and lyrics-wise it's even better than some others... but the refrain gets a bit too repetitive after a while. I seem to like this more now than before though, so maybe it just needs more time than the others...
I have mixed feelings about 'Piepentube'! The lyrics are funny and the melody is very catchy (another instant favourite for me), but unlike all the other tracks, I actually seem to like this less and less after each listen... but as 'Piepentube' was one of my favourites at first, it still has a long way to go until it's my least favourite. Bid's vocals are excellent here, it just wouldn't have been as good if Alice had been singing on this one (no offense to her!), and whoever plays the organ gets a virtual hug from me.
4 New Friends
... and here's the first real contender for the best track on the album. Of course my opinion may be totally different if you ask me again same time next year, but I really like this one at the moment. It reminds me of some other song that I've heard somewhere, I think, but I don't know what. I'm probably just imagining things again. However Alice's voice is stunning here, at least it really fits into the theme somehow. I like the lyrics too - I only just realised that Swelly actually quoted them ("The only thing worse than being on your own, is to fall in with the wrong kind of crew") to me when we were walking back to the city centre (I had a bus to catch and his hotel was somewhere that way as well), so he must have been impressed too.
5 My Little Doll
'My Little Doll' doesn't really stand out on the album, it's alright but nothing spectacular. The "hah, hah hah", "cough, cough cough" and "snore, snore snore" bits make me think that Bid just hasn't found any other words that rhyme, but surely I'm being too cynical again (and quite possibly not completely serious either). The chorus is good but doesn't save the song from the averageness... which isn't necessarily a bad thing on this album!
6 I Am A Canvas
The violin, the piano and the accordion mixed with the vocals make this one of my favourites on the album as well. The refrain, as simple as it is, is the best thing about this song and just beautiful. The song is just soothing and very pleasant to the ears, which is probably just what the album needs after a few more "high-tempoed" tracks.
7 Mid-Morning Lily Songs
I don't know what to say about this song. It could be among the best tracks of the album, but there's something missing... or maybe I just haven't discovered it yet? It's still a good song though, obviously.
8 The Monkey's Hand
And here's another difficult one to judge. I like the Spanish (?) influence on it, the melody is lovely, and the accordion makes it a bit unique, but I just have absolutely no idea what the lyrics are all about! But I like this one as well...
9 This November Night
This one seems to be the favourite on this forum, and I can't really disagree with that either. To me 'This November Night' sounds like the least unique (if that makes any sense) song on the album with all the guitars and everything but that's not a bad thing either. I think it's the lack of the more 'exotic' instruments and the fact that this is the only guitar-driven song on this album.
It's another excellent song, but not as good as the next one...
10 I Sleep Amongst The Tall, Tall Flowers
So yeah, this one, together with 'New Friends', is my current favourite on the album. The organ player gets another virtual hug from me as that's the instrument that really drives this song forward... I think the drummer deserves one too... and of course we shouldn't forget the vocals either, which again fit perfectly into the melody and the excellent lyrics, and manages to create something very charming. This is one of these songs that I could play again and again, but I don't want to, as I want to enjoy the album as a whole.
11 My Heart Is Leaping
Not a bad ending song for an excellent album, although I think it's still missing something, as at the end it feels like the album just ends very suddenly without a warning.
All in all, I am positively surprised with Gatekeeper. Maybe it's a bit short, but not all albums have to be big epic "masterpieces"... I think this is a nice little masterpiece!
Sorry for the mega-post, I hope that someone actually bothered reading all of this... Some comments would be nice though! Do you think I'm missing a lot as I don't know the "story" behind the album(s)? What's the Hesperus?
PS. I'm not going to spellcheck this post or read it again, and as I'm feeling tired there's bound to be some typos... However as a non-native speaker I'm eager to learn more, so please don't hesitate to comment on my spelling as well. ;)