For Shadows is the debut album from former Semifinalists member Chris Steele-Nicholson’s new project Oh Minnows released on the Young & lost club label. Upon looking at the album, immediate impressions may suggest it might be a rather dark affair, artwork denoting cascades of stars awash on moonlit night’s sky bordering some manner of woodland and the album title “For Shadows” are rather blatant hints towards the themes of night-time, dreaming and woozy escapism all of which are sewn together to make this subtle beauty of a record.

Album opener and lead single ‘Another Volunteer’ immediately hits with fast stuttering guitar, before mellowing out into one of the albums most melodic and catchy songs. Oh Minnows then ramp up the bombast with ‘At the rehearsal’ which begins with echoed, distorted Deerhunter style vocals before exploding into a euphoric chorus, whereby Steel-Nicholson boldly proclaims “I love the sunset” before sparse walls of guitar wash over you like a warm shower on a cold day. ‘A Performance’ meanwhile experiments with tempo rather exquisitely, going in and out of slower breaks before soaring with harmonic vocals, aiming for the Thom Yorke kind of tried and tested soft voiced heartstring plucking.

While many dreamy albums have fallen short in the past for perhaps sounding a bit samey, or not venturing far enough with ideas and concepts, Oh Minnows do not religiously stick to the formula. The track ‘Trade’ for instance maintains the night-time themes lyrically, but also pulses with an electronic thud which is one of the album’s most potent and unique moments. Also following a more electronic approach is ‘Some Reasons Why’ one of the shorter more minimal tracks, which follows post-dubstep-esque rhythms and talks of being “afraid of the unknown” again reinforcing the album’s strong lyrical storytelling. A distinctive album highlight is ‘Every Day’, a much more romantic and confessional song. Lyrics about a possible lost love “I am nothing without you” are perhaps the most relatable moment of the record. Final song ‘By The Sea’ offers a slight contrast, with sunny escapism being the port of call, “We may never find our way back home” gently eases the album to a finish.

All in all, For Shadows is an accomplished record and offers much more than simply head nodding dream-pop, with electronic influences playing an integral role in ensuring the album is diverse and not too laboriously structured. It’s also highly effective in showing both the dark side and more welcoming side of the night, leaving it difficult for the listener not to be swept along in its charms.

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