Artist: The Maccabees
Album: Given To The Wild
By: John Verburg
The Maccabees returned in January with their third studio album ‘Given To The Wild’, and for those who aren’t familiar with the British band, their newest release represents quite a transformation. Gone are the two minute songs of angular pop goodness of their charmingly pensive debut ‘Colour It In’. Their sophomore effort ‘Wall of Arms’ hinted at a growing level of maturity, and in some respects, provided just a glimpse of what Maccabees fans could expect in their next effort. ‘Given’ is the mark of a band that is at the top of it’s game, heading to a stratosphere that is reserved for bands like Arcade Fire and The National.
While some bands struggle with “maturation”, the Maccabees embrace getting older on their third album, sounding like a band that is comfortable in its’ gradually wrinkling skin. The five-piece, led by singer Orlando Weeks’ soft crooning, show a deft touch both with his vocals and with their instruments, giving songs space where needed, and adding instrumentation at the right moments.
‘Given To The Wild’ begins with a self titled intro, which is two minutes of ambient music layered with Weeks’ high pitched crooning, before breaking into album opener ‘Child’. Within the album’s first five minutes, you realize this isn’t your same old Maccabees. ‘Child’ approaches you like a lazy day on the beach, with the waves slowly rolling in, before picking up in intensity, and finally crashing into your eardrums with fantastically chiming guitars. ‘Feel To Follow’, the album’s next track follows in similar vane, using a sparse drum beat at the beginning to accompany Weeks’ vocals, only to grab a hold of you and make you feel the optimism that the Maccabees’ music portrays naturally.
Fourth track, ‘Ayla’, is a highlight, using a piano loop that is perfectly placed with chiming guitars, leading to a chorus that wouldn’t be out of place on a Foals or Arcade Fire album. ‘Glimmer’, the album’s fifth song, is a beautiful track, shimmering with a playfulness that Grizzly Bear would be proud of. Another standout track, ‘Forever I’ve Known’ sounds as if contains sounds from the wild itself, with guitar work sounding much like a whale’s cry, before giving way to a propulsive drum beat, and eventually Edge-like stadium sounding guitars.
Lead single from the album, ‘Pelican’, is one of the more traditional songs on the album, and that isn’t a bad thing. It reminds us, that despite the fact that the Maccabees are growing up before our eyes, they haven’t forgotten their youthful exuberance. Album closer, “We Grew Up At Midnight” wraps the album up in a nutshell. With lyrics like “we grew up at midnight…we were only kids then..”, it’s as if the Maccabees are telling the whole world to get ready for them, and the trip through ‘Given to the Wild’ has been about growth and the life cycle all along.
Throughout ‘Given To The Wild’, one can’t help but feel the Maccabees transformation is a positive one. It’s as if they are making music for themselves for the first time, a re-birth of sorts, and that comes through when listening to the album. You can tell this was a labor of love. There is an optimism to their music, even in their slowest moments, like the first time you go out into the world and land that first job after graduating from college. You just know you are going to take the world by storm. The Maccabees might not take the world by storm yet, but they clearly took the time to craft an album they believed in, and one in which their listeners can find something new in repeated listens. And while I am sure there are some that are going to miss the rawness of their debut album, the more mature version of the Maccabees is exciting in it’s own right.