Label: Billingham Records Release date: 11/10/10 2010 has really been the year of the band member breaking solo, hasn't it? We’ve had Philip Selway’s offering, and Gary Powell’s exciting-sounding side project is on the way as well. What sets Paul Smith’s album apart from the others, though, is the huge role he played in his other projects. Stepping down from centre stage with Maximo Park, he’s right back up again to front his solo work, and it is clear from the outset exactly where his skills lie – in his lyrics and his voice. Margins, released October 11th, contains some of the most finely crafted songs of the year, and is a great showcase of the slowed-down, reflective Smith style. Don’t let the relatively fast opener, ‘North Atlantic Drift‘, fool you, the pace of this album is certainly a slower one than we’re used to with Maximo Park’s work, and this pace can really be felt in ‘While You’re in the Bath‘, a wonderfully calm work with feelings of Buckley, which is swiftly followed up by the rolling percussion of ‘This Heat‘, which owes much of its strength to the haunting backing vocals and elated chorus in tandem. Summing up such a diverse album is difficult looking at it as a whole, but the beauty of its wide range is that it becomes an album that fans can return to again and again to find a little something extra that they hadn’t found before. ‘Whilst Improvement/Denouement ‘and its lyrical pun is witty and intelligent, and ‘I Drew You Sleeping’ is a fantastic song to listen to, the highlight for me really is ‘Pinball‘, which pushes the range of instruments further and acts as a reflective, calming close to the album. It’s a shame that for most, it won’t be a frequently heard track, but for the keen fans who listen to the whole album, it will be a gem that shines out. Smith has been criticised for his song-writing in some reviews, but the truth of the matter is it is his lyrics and his striking voice that turn a set of different songs into a cohesive album, with its deep tones benefiting from such a different sound compared to his previous band work. As a fan of Maximo Park, I might seem a little biased, but in truth, whatever your thoughts on their work, there is something different to be found in Margins. The wealth of sounds and instrumentals seems to come directly from Smith himself, and it’s easy to see that the album is more of an exploration of his personality than another Maximo Park album, and we certainly see every facet of it, from the reflective to the extravert. For the downloader’s, the tracks to go for from this wildly differing bunch are definitely ‘Pinball’ and ‘This Heat‘, but for anyone else, the album as a whole will not disappoint. Photobucket