Run through with desperate beauty and dark, haunting imagination, this album stands head and shoulders above nearly everything I've heard in the last three years or so.
This album is no bag of laughs: effortlessly alternating menace with melancholy, it has an artful sense of hopelessness. Sad and beautiful vocals are hung out to dry against a backdrop of expansive piano and string chords, undercooked, trippy snare & cymbal beats, and all manner of other subtle musical curios and unflinching Hammond organ. There are voices from the shadows (or, perhaps, from the dark recesses of your mind) giving way to sharp, low-fi bursts of punky guitar, and desperate mantras set to thrumming and mildly industrial rhythms.
Garvey has a beautiful singing voice, like that of a lost soul or a fallen angel, and is brilliantly supported by the rest of the band, whose mastery of their craft is evident throughout. Though there are plenty of other good bands out there, what sets Elbow apart is their inspired, dark inventiveness and musical vision. Where The Bends, Blue Lines and Dummy set the standards for the 90s, Asleep in the Back has done the same for our present decade.