‘I am sure / I am sure / That nothing’s changed’ sings Carlos Posada at the very start of this album. Four years after I saw Low Island live at Manchester’s Deaf Institute, it would be foolish to make the very same statements about the work of this band. If You Could Have It All Again, Low Island’s debut, has been a long time coming. At that 2017 gig, of the back of the success of early EPs with songs like ‘That Kind Of Love’, they seemed to be on the cusp of releasing something big – sounding polished, professional and with the tunes to back it up. So why the delay? What has happened during this time? Has anything changed?
Turns out they’ve been busy. Not only writing all-new material for this album, but recording it, producing it and releasing it through their own label. With all that on their plate, plus touring, I’m ready to forgive the long wait for a full album.
Change is a theme throughout If You Could Have It All Again. The subject pops up in the lyrics in several places as the band consider friends and lovers moving on, letting go and recognising less comfortable aspects of oneself.
Low Island’s choruses are designed for singalongs, from ‘everything I do, I do it for you’ to ‘I will set you free / I will set you free’. On paper these could appear banal, but when combined with the band’s infectious grooves, they will leave you crying out for our much-missed live music scene.
There are further tantalising reminders of sticky floors and plastic pints in the livelier tracks like ‘What Do You Stand For’, an almost anomalous outward looking and satirical song within the self-reflective landscape of the album, and ‘Who’s Having The Greatest Time?’. The slow building ‘In Your Arms’ is laden with catchy bass and synth hooks that take me back to the heady days of four years ago.
The polished professional sound I mentioned has been honed on this album, albeit laced with a feeling they’ve leaned a little away from their own sound in favour of their influences, notably other products of the Oxford scene like Glass Animals and Radiohead. They’re performers and musicians at heart and production is not necessarily a strength you’d expect. But they capture enough of the excitement of the live feeling to strike a successful balance.
If You Could Have It All Again ends with a reflective passage of recorded speech, perhaps from an interview with a friend:
‘I realised that trying to do loads of different things wasn’t helping me get to that one place’
Low Island clearly have been doing loads of different things, both in and outside the music, and still created a praiseworthy album. Have they reached their one place? In a selfish way I hope not. Their personal experiences have benefitted the content of this album no end, and I want to hear more. Give it a listen so they can take a well earned break, share the load for the next album and concentrate on what they do best. And we might not have to wait another four years for more Low Island music.
Words by James Spearing