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On April 13th, the lively lads of Stornoway released their third LP, Bonxie. The album namesake is taken after a large, predatory seabird known for it's aggressiveness. This may seem strange when thinking of the folk-tinged indie pop-rock of Stornoway, but this album plays with extremes. Produced by Gil Norton (credits include the Pixies, Foo Fighters), Bonxie is sonically larger are more varied than the band's previous work. For instance, there is the use of 20 different bird calls woven throughout the album, pitting the yearning to be in nature against often bombastic instrumentals.

What is interesting is the album does not stay tied down to one particular genre. First, there are the folky tunes. There's the slightly ambient and dark, 'The Road You Didn't Take'. There's the acoustic and sea-shanty harmony driven 'Josephine'. This song plays out like something early Paul McCartney would have enjoyed writing. The folk stand-out though is 'We Were Giants'. It is slow-tempo but does not drag. There is a weightlessness in the instrumentals, playing with dynamics, especially on the string arrangements. The lyrical imagery completes the song ("Did we see the curve of the Earth from where we stood/ side by side/ with the clouds around our ankles?"). You can almost see the grainy images playing on a slide show.

Then, there are the straight-up indie pop songs. Album opener, 'Between The Saltmarsh and the Sea' is anthemic in scope. There is play with dynamics and picked acoustic guitar is matched up against electronic atmospherics and mid-tempo percussions (even some electronic beats thrown in). There's the fun 'Lost Youth'. The stand out of this style is 'Get Low'. It's just quirky enough with streamlined drums, strummed acoustic guitar, a driving bass line, and twittering and fluttering keys/electronics; theres even a strained sting riff thrown in for good measure. It's a song that gets the listener moving and grooving.

The final genre Stornoway plays with could easily be included in the previous section, with one exception. There are some songs that have an obvious '50s pop vibe (think Frankie Valentine). There's the orchestral driven 'Man on Wire' and the swinging 'When You're feeling Gentle'. But the highlight is album closer, 'Love Song of the Beta Male'. This song is where the band finds a balance between heartfelt crooning and ambitious layering of instruments (including finger snaps!). It is endearing in its lyrical honesty which walks hand in hand with the dynamics of strings and brass instruments.

There are times when Bonxie gets to be a little much. Some arrangements feel a little busy. The other issue is, with the use of so much orchestration and layering, the sounds start to meld together; it gets very loud and difficult to differentiate instruments. And while this may have been purposeful to show the contrast between the studio work of recording an ambitious album and the often pastoral imagery of the lyrics, there are times when it does falter.

But do not let this deter you. There is passion and melodies that will have you chirping and whistling along to Bonxie. Stornoway's lead singer, Brian Briggs commented about the album, "I wanted a shake up and I wanted to feel more connected to the outdoors - I wanted to feel small." Stornoway achieved both. There is no ignoring the allusions to the natural world. And with big orchestration and even bigger ambition, the band were able to show just how we are only a small part of something much bigger.

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