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Flyte: The Loved Ones
by George Graham
(Island Records As broadcast on WVIA-FM 4/4/2018)
Melodic pop that traces its origins back a few generations to the British invasion groups of the 1960s still is finding its way onto the music scene, thanks to a younger crop of artists who have developed a sense of history. With commercial pop going in quite a different direction, the sound influenced by the Beatles keeps popping up here and there, sometimes with interesting results, when younger artists blend their contemporary sensibilities with perhaps a discovery of the music of their parents or even grandparents. This week we have a good example. It’s a British band called Flyte, and their debut full-length album is called The Loved Ones.
Flyte, spelled F-L-Y-T-E, traces it origins to when guitarist-vocalist Will Taylor and drummer Jon Supran started playing together at age 11 while they were in what the English call “comprehensive school.” They were subsequently joined by bassist Nicholas Hill and keyboard man Sam Berridge. Their social network page says they have been together as a band since 2013. Like many beginning groups, they first started doing covers. In 2014 they did a video performing Joni Mitchell’s River which went viral. They also did covers of David Bowie and Arcade Fire. But they also worked on their own music. Both of Will Taylor’s parents are English teachers, so the band’s lyrics definitely have a literary twist. The band’s name, by the way, was taken from the character Sebastian Flyte from Evelyn Waugh’s “Brideshead Revisited.”
The band was subsequently signed to Island Records, but took a while to create their debut album, which was released in August of last year in the UK, and is now seeing US release coinciding with a US tour. To record, they went to Australia to work with producer Burke Reid, known for his work with Courtney Barnett. The result is a very classy album with just about everything done right, great writing with lyrics often dealing with situations like the balance between art and commerce, dealing with addiction and one song has a consideration of suicide, but it’s put in the context of sophisticated melodic rock inspired by the latter Beatles and other Brit-pop groups like the Hollies and perhaps 10cc from the 1970s. There are some more contemporary stylistic ingredients, but the group places a premium on well-written melodies, great vocal harmonies and arrangements that recall progressive rock in their complexity, and near theatricality. But they never go over the edge with pretense.
The relatively short 34 minute album opens with a real gem called Faithless which epitomizes the band’s influence from the British invasion groups with Beatles-like arrangements, and even some echoes of the Beach Boys. <<>>
Victoria Falls has a somewhat more contemporary sound, with a great melodic hook and impressive vocal harmonies by the band. <<>>
Another strong track is Cathy Come Home, with lyrics about a complicated relationship, and multi-layered arrangement that can recall the band Queen or 10cc. <<>>
The more laid-back acoustic side of Flyte comes out on the track Orphans of the Storm, though the band’s musical approach is no less sophisticated. <<>>
A track called Sliding Doors has darker lyrics, touching on suicidal thoughts, which are tempered with the song’s tuneful sound. <<>>
Also with lyrics that match the band’s level of musical sophistication is Little White Lies which considers when compromises in integrity become a sellout. <<>>
Taking up the subject of substance abuse is Annie and Alistair, which is put in a mellow largely acoustic context. <<>>
The album ends with a cover tune, Archie, Marry Me by the Canadian alternative band Alvvays. Flyte shows their great vocal harmony chops with their performance being mostly a cappella. <<>>
The Loved Ones, the debut full-length album by the London quartet Flyte, is a very impressive record showing great sophistication on essentially their first time out. They feature great writing, both musically, with good melodies, and lyrically addressing topics that are usually outside the realm of pop, along with outstanding vocal harmonies and first-rate progressive rock influenced arrangements. With two of the guys having been together since age 11, it’s not surprising that the band has a tight, coherent sound. The production by Burke Reid is also spot-on, with the sound often recalling the British Invasion, with more contemporary stylistic elements sprinkled in as well.
Our grade for sound quality is a “C”. The mix is very good, and the vocals are largely cleanly recorded, but the loudness was cranked up through excessive volume compression, so that their dynamics are largely lost, and there are instances of the compression being ham-handed enough to cause the sound to throb unnaturally like a bad commercial radio station.
Usually the mark of trendy music is something that will drive drive a previous generation crazy. In this case Flyte has found the right combination of creativity, musical skill and sense of history to be able to create music that could well appeal across generations.
(c) Copyright 2018 George D. Graham. All rights reserved.
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