Label: Bella Union Release date: 30/08/10 Link: Official Site Buy: Amazon Better known as the intricate sticksman in Radiohead, Philip Selway has taken the decision to step down from the drum riser and take up position centre stage by releasing his debut solo album Familial. Released through label Bella Union, the home of John Grant, Andrew Bird and Midlake, Selway proves to be a more than comfortable stable mate for these acoustic scene leaders. Written after the death of his mother and exploring the intricacies and emotions of long standing relationships, both familial, as the title suggests, and friend, the record is laced with melancholy, catharsis and bitter sweet sentiment, reflected in his tender, breathy vocals, his otherworldly harmonies and intricate ‘barely there’ beat loops. Yet, alongside the sadness, it is also uplifting, soul affirming stuff, full of light and air. It is a deeply personal record, with lyrics so intimate and emotive that at times you feel that you are holding up a glass to the wall, a secret aural voyeur. He sings to his son on ‘The Ties That Bind Us’ about wanting to shield him from his mistakes. He directly addresses the death of his mother on ‘Broken Promises’, lamenting the ‘dreams that are never fulfilled’ yet wanting to celebrate life and finding ‘peace for the very first time’. He even sings about Thom Yorke’s crippling stage fright on ‘All Eyes On You’. These are private musical letters to his nearest and dearest, of which we are granted audience. Surprisingly bereft of much percussion, Selway creates a warmth in his songwriting that is sometimes absent in that of his more famous musical output. The occasional percussive loops give the album a sense of the familiar Radiohead edge, yet never does this album try to emulate his alma mater. If anything it is more Five Leaves Left than OK Computer. It is modest, humble and basic, rather than groundbreaking and cutting edge. He is not attempting to reinvent the wheel or set the sonic world on fire, but simply to create something beautiful and worthy, which he has most certainly achieved. Perhaps lacking a bit of light and shade in places - once you have listened to the first four tracks, you have a good idea of what the rest of the record has to offer - Selway is an expert in ethereal, soul -lifting melancholia that doles out generous doses of goosebumps and the odd tear throughout this most sensitive and beautiful of records. Familial hasn’t damaged his reputation as a musician or compromised his position as the near silent drummer in one of the most progressive bands in the world. If anything it has proved that he is so much more than just the ‘bald bloke at the back’; he is a creative force in his own right. Familial is a truly gorgeous album that should be judged on it’s own merit, rather than as a footnote to his day job, of which both Selway and inner circle should be proud. Photobucket